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The Arts Education Partnership (formerly known as the Goals 2000 Arts 
Education Partnership) is a private, nonprofit coalition of more than 
100 national education, arts, business, philanthropic and government 
organizations that demonstrate and promote the essential role of arts 
education in enabling all students to succeed in school, life and work. 
The Partnership was formed in 1995 through a cooperative agreement 
between the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the U.S. 
Department of Education, the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies 
(NASAA), and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). 


The President's Committee was created by Presidential Executive 
Order in 1982 to encourage private sector support and to increase 
public appreciation of the value of the arts and the humanities, 
through projects, publications and meetings. 

Appointed by the President, the Committee comprises leading 
citizens from the private sector who have an interest in and commit- 
ment to the humanities and the arts. Its members also include the 
heads of federal agencies with cultural programs, such as the National 
Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities, the Institute of 
Museum and Library Services, the U.S. Department of Education, the 
Smithsonian Institution, the Library of Congress, the National Gallery 
of Art and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. 








Funded by: 





*•»»,# . &>> 



MacArthur Foundation 

Edward B. "Ted" Fiske, the former Education Editor 
of the New York Times, is an internationally known 
education correspondent, editor, and lecturer who is 
widely regarded as one of the nation's leading education 
writers and observers of school reform. He is perhaps 
best known as the author of the best-selling Fiske Guide 
to Colleges (Times Books), an annual publication that 
is a standard part of the college admissions literature. 
In 1991, he published Smart Schools, Smart Kids (Simon 
& Schuster), which former U.S. Secretary of Education 
T H. Bell called "the most important work on educa- 
tion to be published since A Nation at Risk" 






General Involvement and Intensive Involvement In Music and Theater Arts 

James S. Catterall, Richard Chapleau and John Iwanaga 1 


Learning in the Arts during the Nonschool Hours 

Shirley Brice Heath with Adelma Roach 19 

Curriculum Implications 

Judith Burton, Robert Horowitz, Hal Abeles 35 

Summary Evaluation 

James S. Catterall and Lynn Waldorf 47 

The Promise and the Challenge 

Barry Oreck, Susan Baum and Heather McCartney 63 


A Monograph on the Shakespeare & Company Research Study 

Steve Seidel 79 


or Just What Do Children Learn When They Create an Opera 

Dennie Palmer Wolf 91 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

LYRASIS Members and Sloan Foundation 




When young people are involved with the 
arts, something changes in their lives. 
We've often witnessed the rapt expres- 
sions on the faces of such young people. Advocates for 
the arts often use photographs of smiling faces to 
document the experience. 

But in a society that values measurements and uses 
data-driven analysis to inform decisions about alloca- 
tion of scarce resources, photographs of smiling faces 
are not enough to gain or even retain support. Such 
images alone will not convince skeptics or even neutral 
decision-makers that something exceptional is happen- 
ing when and where the arts become part of the lives 
of young people. 

Until now, we've known little about the nature of 
this change, or how to enable the change to occur. To 
understand these issues in more rigorous terms, we 
invited leading educational researchers to examine the 
impact of arts experiences on young people. We 
developed the Champions of Change: The Impact of the 
Arts on Learning initiative in cooperation with The 
Arts Education Partnership and The President's 
Committee on the Arts and the Humanities to explore 
why and how young people were changed through 
their arts experiences. 

We believed that evidence could be collected that 
would help answer the questions of why positive 
changes occur and what might be done to replicate 
them. We expected the work to build on previous 
research concerning the arts and learning so that 
similar programs could become even more effective; 
we also hoped to increase the overall understanding of 
how the arts can impact learning. 

We invited the initial Champions of Change 
researchers to examine well-established models of arts 
education. We then added research efforts that looked 
beyond specific programs to larger issues of the arts in 
American education. Finally, we expanded our concept 
beyond classrooms and schools to include out-of-school 
settings. We wanted to better understand the impact of 
the arts on learning, not just on formal education. 

The Champions of Change Researchers 

Over the last few years, seven teams of researchers 
examined a variety of arts education programs using 
diverse methodologies: 

■ James S. Catterall of the Imagination Project at 
the University of California at Los Angeles 

analyzed data on more than 25,000 students from 
the National Educational Longitudinal Survey to 
determine the relationship of engagement in the 
arts to student performance and attitudes. He also 
investigated the impact of intensive involvement 
in instrumental music and drama/theatre on 
student achievement. 

■ Shirley Brice Heath of The Carnegie Foundation 
for the Advancement of Teaching and Stanford 
University, with Adelma Roach, examined after- 
school programs for youth in poor communities. 
The researchers were interested in the qualities 
that made programs in the arts, sports, and 
community service effective sites for learning and 
development, and they identified features that 
made involvement with the arts the most powerful 
factor to success in and out of school. 

■ The Center for Arts Education Research at Teachers 
College, Columbia University, studied arts education 
programs within elementary and junior high 
schools. Researchers Judy Burton, Rob Horowitz, 
and Hal Abeles created a taxonomy of learning in 
the arts, and investigated the ways that learning in 
the arts affected learning across the curriculum and 
the conditions that made this possible. 

■ James Catterall and The North Central Regional 
Educational Laboratory (NCREL) evaluated 
the impact of the Chicago Arts Partnership in 
Education (CAPE). The CAPE network of nine 
neighborhood-based partnerships of 23 local 
schools, 33 arts organizations, and 11 commu- 
nity-based organizations has pioneered new 
ways to integrate the arts with learning across 
the curriculum. 



■ Researchers at the National Center for Gifted and 
Talented at the University of Connecticut exam- 
ined the Young Talent Program and other offerings 
of ArtsConnection, the largest outside provider of 
arts education programming to the New York City 
public school system. They also created a model of 
obstacles, success factors, and outcomes for talent 
development in the arts. 

■ Steve Seidel and researchers from Harvard 
University's Project Zero examined two education 
programs of Shakespeare & Company, a profes- 
sional theatre company based in Lenox, 
Massachusetts. Researchers investigated the 
National Institute on Teaching Shakespeare, a high 
school teacher training program, as well as the Fall 
Festival of Shakespeare, an annual regional experi- 
ence that involves teenagers in the study and 
performance of Shakespeare's works. 

■ Dennie Palmer Wolf and researchers from the 
Performance Assessment Collaboratives for 
Education (PACE) of Harvard's Graduate School 
of Education examined the Creating Original 
Opera program of The Metropolitan Opera Guild. 
This professional development program trains 
elementary and secondary school teachers in a 
process that enables young people to create, 
perform, and produce an original opera. 


This research initiative had many champions. We 
are grateful to them all, and would like to recognize the 
contributions of several who made this entire collabo- 
ration possible. 

First and foremost, we thank the late Ernie Boyer, 
former president of The Carnegie Foundation for 
the Advancement of Teaching and former U.S. 
Commissioner of Education, for encouraging us to 
work together. This partnership has been a highlight 

of our professional lives, and we will always remember 
Ernie as an articulate advocate for the role of the arts 
in young lives. 

Throughout the development and implementation 
of Champions of Change, several individuals provided 
critical support and counsel. They included Peter Gerber, 
Vartan Gregorian, Rich Gurin, Ellen Lovell, Margaret 
Mahoney, Harold Williams, and Jim Wolfensohn. 

During the research process, we held several 
sessions to review work in progress and identify 
questions for the research to be funded. In addition to 
the artists, educators, and researchers named in this 
report, we benefited from the involvement of arts and 
education leaders from across the country. They 
included Terry Baker, Jim Berk, Bob Bucker, Jessica 
Davis, Elliott Eisner, Carol Fineberg, Rita Foy, Milton 
Goldberg, Derek Gordon, Doug Herbert, Sarah Howes, 
Peter Martinez, Ruth Mitchell, David O'Fallon, David 
Perkins, Terry Peterson, Jane Remer, Dan Scheinfeld, 
Josiah Spaulding, Robert Stake, and Louise Stevens. 

Under the leadership of executive director Dick 
Deasy, The Arts Education Partnership has been a critical 
partner for the Champions of Change research initiative. 
We are also grateful to The President's Committee for the 
Arts and the Humanities, honorary chair First Lady 
Hillary Rodham Clinton, and executive director Harriet 
Mayor Fulbright for their involvement and support since 
the inception of this ambitious undertaking. 

Finally, we thank the advisory committees and the 
boards of our respective institutions whose support 
made this extraordinary endeavor possible. We believe 
their significant commitment of resources for 
Champions of Change will help transform countless 
young lives for the better through the arts. 

Jane L. Polin 
The GE Fund 

Nick Rabkin 

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation 



Washington, D.C. 20202 

The ultimate challenge for American education is to place all children on pathways toward 
success in school and in life. Through engagement with the arts, young people can better begin 
lifelong journeys of developing their capabilities and contributing to the world around them. The 
arts teach young people how to learn by giving them the first step: the desire to learn. Champions of 
Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning also shows that the arts can play a vital role in learning 
how to learn, an essential ability for fostering achievement and growth throughout their lives. 

American education is changing, and changing for the better. Who teaches, what is taught, 
where teaching takes place, and how teaching occurs are evolving dramatically in communities 
across America. And a key factor in changing American education for the better is to increase high 
quality arts learning in the lives of young Americans. 

Why is American education in such flux? In simplest terms, the reason is because America is 
in transition. We are a more diverse society facing daunting demands from global social and 
technological innovation. The American economy is shifting from a manufacturing-driven engine 
to a services-driven enterprise. If young Americans are to succeed and to contribute to what 
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan describes as our "economy of ideas," they will need an 
education that develops imaginative, flexible and tough-minded thinking. The arts powerfully 
nurture the ability to think in this manner. 

Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning provides new and important 
findings on actual learning experiences involving the arts. The report which follows presents these 
research findings, complete with ground-breaking quantitative and qualitative data and analysis, as 
articulated by leading American educational researchers. These researchers investigated the 
content, process, and results of learning in and through the arts. Perhaps what makes their 
findings so significant is that they all address ways that our nation's educational goals may be 
realized though enhanced arts learning. As the researchers discovered, learning in the arts can not 
only impact how young people learn to think, but also how they feel and behave. 

The American public is demanding more than ever from our schools, and rightly so. Parents 
and other caregivers want to equip young people for professionally and personally rewarding 
careers, and they recognize that to do so we must give them greatly enriched experiences. As these 
researchers have confirmed, young people can be better prepared for the 21st century through 
quality learning experiences in and through the arts. 

aIAc^ Aa^u. 

^ilev V 

Richard Riley 

Secretary, Department of Education 

Our mission is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the Nation. 




As a result of their varied inquiries, the 
Champions of Change researchers found that 
learners can attain higher levels of achievement 
through their engagement with the arts. Moreover, one 
of the critical research findings is that the learning in 
and through the arts can help "level the playing field" 
for youngsters from disadvantaged circumstances. 

James Catterall's analysis of the Department of 
Education's NELS:88 database of 25,000 students 
demonstrates that students with high levels of arts 
participation outperform "arts-poor" students by 
virtually every measure. Since arts participation is highly 
correlated with socioeconomic status, which is the most 
significant predictor of academic performance, this 
comes as little surprise. The size and diversity of the 
NELS database, however, permitted Catterall to find 
statistical significance in comparisons of high and low 
arts participants in the lowest socioeconomic segments. 
This closer look showed that high arts participation 
makes a more significant difference to students from 
low-income backgrounds than for high-income students. 
Catterall also found clear evidence that sustained 
involvement in particular art forms — music and 
theater — are highly correlated with success in mathe- 
matics and reading. 

These findings are enriched by comparisons of 
student achievement in 14 high-poverty schools in 
which the Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education 
(CAPE) has developed innovative arts-integrated 
curricula. The inspiring turnaround of this large and 
deeply troubled school district is one of the important 
education stories of this decade. Schools across Chicago, 
including all those in this study, have been improving 
student performance. But, when compared to arts-poor 
schools in the same neighborhoods, the CAPE schools 
advanced even more quickly and now boast a significant 
gap in achievement along many dimensions. 

Schools are not the only venue in which young 
people grow, learn, and achieve. Shirley Brice Heath 

spent a decade studying dozens of after-school programs 
for disadvantaged youth. These programs were broadly 
clustered into three categories — sports/academic, 
community involvement, and the arts. This research 
shows that the youth in all these programs were doing 
better in school and in their personal lives than were 
young people from the same socioeconomic categories, 
as tracked by NELS:88. 

To the researchers' surprise, however, the youth in 
the arts programs were doing the best. Skeptical about 
this finding, Heath and her colleagues looked more 
closely at the arts programs and the youth participat- 
ing in them. Although the youth in the arts programs 
were actually at greater "risk" than those in the other 
programs, the researchers found that characteristics 
particular to the arts made those programs more 
effective. They now believe that a combination of 
"roles, risks, and rules" offered in the arts programs 
had a greater impact on these young lives. 

Another broad theme emerges from the individual 
Champions of Change research findings: the arts no 
longer need to be characterized solely by either their 
ability to promote learning in specific arts disciplines or 
by their ability to promote learning in other disciplines. 
These studies suggest a more dynamic, less either-or 
model for the arts and overall learning that has more of 
the appearance of a rotary with entrances and exits 
than of a linear one-way street. 

This rotary of learning provides the greater access 
to higher levels of achievement. "Learning in and 
Through the Arts" (LITA) and other Champions of 
Change studies found much evidence that learning in 
the arts has significant effects on learning in other 
domains. LITA suggests a dynamic model in which 
learning in one domain supports and stimulates 
learning in others, which in turn supports and 
stimulates learning in a complex web of influence 
described as a "constellation." LITA and the other 
researchers provide compelling evidence that student 
achievement is heightened in an environment with 
high quality arts education offerings and a school 
climate supportive of active and productive learning. 


Why the Arts Change the Learning Experience 

When well taught, the arts provide young people 
with authentic learning experiences that engage their 
minds, hearts, and bodies. The learning experiences are 
real and meaningful for them. 

While learning in other disciplines may often 
focus on development of a single skill or talent, the 
arts regularly engage multiple skills and abilities. 
Engagement in the arts — whether the visual arts, 
dance, music, theatre or other disciplines — nurtures 
the development of cognitive, social, and personal 
competencies. Although the Champions of Change 
researchers conducted their investigations and 
presented their findings independently, a remarkable 
consensus exists among their findings: 

■ The arts reach students who are not otherwise 
being reached. 

Young people who are disengaged from schools 
and other community institutions are at the greatest 
risk of failure or harm. The researchers found that the 
arts provided a reason, and sometimes the only 
reason, for being engaged with school or other 
organizations. These young people would otherwise 
be left without access to any community of learners. 
The studies concerning ArtsConnection, CAPE, and 
learning during non-school hours are of particular 
significance here. 

■ The arts reach students in ways that they are not 
otherwise being reached. 

Other recent educational research has produced 
insights into different styles of learning. This research 
also addresses examples of young people who were 
considered classroom failures, perhaps "acting out" 
because conventional classroom practices were not 
engaging them. These "problem" students often 
became the high-achievers in arts learning settings. 
Success in the arts became a bridge to learning and 
eventual success in other areas of learning. The 
ArtsConnection study provides case studies of such 
students; the "Learning In and Through the Arts" 

research examines the issue of learner self-perception 
in great depth. 

■ The arts connect students to themselves and 
each other. 

Creating an artwork is a personal experience. 
The student draws upon his or her personal resources 
to generate the result. By engaging his or her whole 
person, the student feels invested in ways that are 
deeper than "knowing the answer." Beyond the 
individual, Steve Seidel and Dennie Palmer Wolf show 
how effective arts learning communities are formed 
and operated. James Catterall also describes how the 
attitudes of young people toward one another are 
altered through their arts learning experiences. 

■ The arts transform the environment for learning. 

When the arts become central to the learning 
environment, schools and other settings become 
places of discovery. According to the Teachers College 
research team and those examining the CAPE schools, 
the very school culture is changed, and the conditions 
for learning are improved. Figurative walls between 
classrooms and disciplines are broken down. Teachers 
are renewed. Even the physical appearance of a school 
building is transformed through the representations of 
learning. The Heath research team also found "visible" 
changes in nonschool settings. 

■ The arts provide learning opportunities for the 
adults in the lives of young people. 

Those held responsible for the development of 
children and youth — teachers, parents, and other 
adults — are rarely given sufficient or significant 
opportunities for their own continuing education. 
With adults participating in lifelong learning, young 
people gain an understanding that learning in any 
field is a never-ending process. The roles of the adults 
are also changed — in effective programs, the adults 
become coaches — active facilitators of learning. Heath 
and other researchers here describe the altered 
dynamics between young and less young learners. 



■ The arts provide new challenges for those students 
already considered successful. 

Boredom and complacency are barriers to 
success. For those young people who outgrow their 
established learning environments, the arts can offer 
a chance for unlimited challenge. In some situations 
described in the research, older students may also 
teach and mentor younger students. In others, young 
people gain from the experience of working with 
professional artists. The ArtsConnection researchers 
in general, and James Catterall in particular, explored 
the impact of intensive involvement in specific art 

■ The arts connect learning experiences to the world 
of real work. 

The world of adult work has changed, and the arts 
learning experiences described in the research show 
remarkable consistency with the evolving workplace. 
Ideas are what matter, and the ability to generate 
ideas, to bring ideas to life and to communicate them 
is what matters to workplace success. Working in a 
classroom or a studio as an artist, the young person is 
learning and practicing future workplace behaviors. 
A company is a company, whether producing an opera 
or a breakthrough technological service. 

How the Arts Change the Learning Experience 

The programs and schools examined by the 
Champions of Change researchers were selected 
because they appeared to be models of excellence that 
were making a real difference to young people. Their 
research helps us identify the principles and require- 
ments that make these arts learning models work. By 
helping to better define the characteristics of effective 
arts learning programs, the Champions of Change 
researchers have also done a great service. 

Education reformers and researchers have learned 
a great deal about "what works" in recent years. In 
examining the work of Shakespeare & Company, Steve 
Seidel cites the general characteristics of "project- 
based learning" as factors that also support effective 

arts learning. In Real Learning, Real Work, author 
Adria Steinberg identifies six elements that are critical 
to the design of project-based learning: authenticity, 
academic rigor, applied learning, active exploration, 
adult relationships, and assessment practices. Seidel 
also emphasizes that the best assessment of a person's 
understanding is a product that "puts that under- 
standing to work." Learning is deepest when learners 
have the capacity to represent what they have learned, 
and the multiple disciplines of the arts all provide 
modes of representation. 

The quality arts learning experiences described by 
the Champions of Change researchers regularly contain 
these project-based learning elements. The best 
programs display them in great breadth and depth. To 
be effective, the arts learning experience will also 

■ Enable young people to have direct involvement 
with the arts and artists. 

Young people become and see themselves as artists. 
Whether creating art works, as in the Creating Original 
Opera program, or performing, as in the Fall Festival 
of Shakespeare program, or perhaps even teaching 
younger student artists, as in the ArtsConnection 
program, the students learn various disciplines through 
hands-on arts experiences. They actively engage with 
artistic content, materials, and methods. 

■ Require significant staff development. 

The best teachers are life-long students. The 
teachers involved in the staff development programs 
examined by the Champions of Change researchers 
describe life-changing experiences that transform 
their professional lives. High-impact programs 
demand both adequate staff preparation and strong 
administrative support. Well-trained staff and 
teachers also become leaders for institutional and 
systemic change. 

■ Support extended engagement in the 
artistic process. 

Opportunities to achieve artistic and learning 
excellence cannot be confined to forty-five minute 



time periods. Sustained engagement during individual 
sessions as well as expanded program length support 
enhanced learning opportunities. These learning 
experiences are also not limited to place; school is just 
one of many settings where this learning occurs. 
Superior results are also associated with the concept of 
"practice" and the development of a sense of "craft." 

■ Encourage self-directed learning. 

Students learning in and through the arts become 
their own toughest critics. The students are motivated 
to learn not just for test results or other performance 
outcomes, but for the learning experience itself. 
According the to the ArtsConnection study, these 
learners develop the capacity to experience "flow," self- 
regulation, identity, and resilience — qualities regularly 
associated with personal success. 

■ Promote complexity in the learning experience. 

Students who might otherwise complain of 
boredom become fully challenged. Unlike other learning 
experiences that seek right or wrong answers, engage- 
ment in the arts allows for multiple outcomes. Seidel 
found that when "refusing to simplify" Shakespeare's 
challenging texts, students became passionately engaged 
in learning classic works which high schoolers so often 
consider boring. Effective learning in the arts is both 
complex and multi-dimensional. 

■ Allow management of risk by the learners. 

Rather than see themselves as "at-risk," students 
become managers of risk who can make decisions 
concerning artistic outcomes and even their lives. The 
students learn to manage risk through "permission to 
fail," according to the Shakespeare & Company study, 
and then take risks "to intensify the quality of their 
interactions, products, and performances," according 
to Heath and her colleagues. 

■ Engage community leaders and resources. 

Another recent study, Gaining the Arts 
Advantage: Lessons from School Districts That Value 
Arts Education, found that "the single most critical 

factor in sustaining arts education in (their) schools 
is the active involvement of influential segments of 
the community in shaping and implementing the 
policies and programs of the district." Similarly, 
effective arts learning out of school also requires the 
active engagement of the community. The CAPE and 
Heath studies show a process that attracts and builds 
on this engagement from parents and other commu- 
nity members. 

Policy Implications of the Champions of 
Change Research 

The Champions of Change studies examined the 
messy, often hard-to-define real world of learning, 
both in and out of schools. As a result, these research 
findings have immediate relevance for both policy and 
practice in American education today. 

For example, if we now know that arts experi- 
ences help level the educational playing field for 
disadvantaged students, as revealed by James Catterall, 
then we need to bring more proven arts learning 
resources to these students. If arts learning can help 
energize or re-energize the teaching workforce, as 
described by Steve Seidel, then we must look to the 
arts both as a vehicle for preparing entrants to the 
teaching profession and as a means of supporting its 
more-experienced members. Looking beyond class- 
rooms, Shirley Brice Heath found the profound 
impact the arts can have on learning for youth outside 
school settings. If this is so, we must expand quality 
arts learning programs outside of schools as well. 

In the CAPE model, the researchers find that arts 
learning can have a defined impact on the academic 
performance of students in an urban setting. If well- 
constructed partnerships between school and arts 
organizations can increase student achievement, then 
such partnerships must be nurtured and replicated. In 
another urban program, ArtsConnection researchers 
define the role of the arts in enabling students to 
overcome obstacles to success; again, such experiences 
should be made more widely available. Researcher 
Dennie Palmer Wolf describes the impact of group 



versus individual learning generated through a 
collaborative arts experience. For this approach to 
grow, a more serious commitment to developing 
communities of arts learners, rather than just oppor- 
tunities for "stars," is required. If sustained, integrated, 
and complex projects, like producing an opera, a 
Shakespeare production, or a visual arts exhibition, 
significantly deepen the learning process, as these 
studies suggest, then school schedules must also be 
modified to make such experiences possible. 

The findings of the individual research studies are 
worthy of the reader's careful review. 

We owe a great debt to these researchers for their 
diligence and insights; we can only repay this debt by 
heeding their words and seeking systemic ways to 
make the arts a meaningful part of every American 
child's life. Together, we can make the everyday 
learning experiences of young Americans less ordinary 
and more extraordinary. 


These Champions of Change studies demonstrate 
how involvement with the arts provides unparalleled 
opportunities for learning, enabling young people to 
reach for and attain higher levels of achievement. The 
research provides both examples and evidence of why 
the arts should be more widely recognized for its 
current and potential contributions to the improve- 
ment of American education. 

Similarly, the experiences we offer too many young 
people outside of school are often limited in their 
purpose and resulting impact. They provide recreation, 
but no sense of creation. They provide recess, but no 
sense of success. Arts learning outside of schools can 
also enhance the sense of accomplishment and well- 
being among our young people. 

This research provides compelling evidence that the 
arts can and do serve as champions of change in learning. 
Yet realizing the full potential of learning in and through 
the arts for all American children will require heroic acts 
from all segments of our society. With the 21st century 
now upon us, we, too, must be champions of change; we 
must meet and exceed the challenge of giving our young 
people the best possible preparation we can offer them. 
To do so, we must make involvement with the arts a basic 
part of their learning experiences. In doing so, we will 
become champions for our children and their children. 

Involvement in the Arts and 
Human Development: 

General Involvement and Intensive Involvement 
In Music and Theater Arts 




The Imagination Project at UCLA Graduate School of 

Education & Information Studies, University of California 

at Los Angeles, September 1999 




This report presents results from our work 
during the past two years exploring interactions 
between the arts and human development and 
achievement. This research enlists the National 
Educational Longitudinal Survey (NELS:88)\ a panel 
study which has followed more than 25,000 students in 
American secondary schools for 10 years. The work 
addresses developments for children and adolescents 
over the period spent between the 8th and 12th grades, 
i.e. late middle school through high school. 

The first phase of the work examines involvement 
in the arts generally — across all disciplines. The second 
phase examines the potential importance of sustained 
involvement in a single discipline, here using instru- 
mental music and the theater arts as case examples. We 
focus on these two arts disciplines because of related 
research suggesting links between music and cognitive 
development and between drama and theater in 
education and various skill and attitude developments. 
Our findings, presented in more detail below, can 
be summarized in three main sets of observations: 

( 1 ) Involvement in the arts and academic success. 
Positive academic developments for children 
engaged in the arts are seen at each step in the 
research — between 8th and 10th grade as well as 
between 10th and 12th grade. The comparative 
gains for arts-involved youngsters generally 
become more pronounced over time. Moreover 
and more important, these patterns also hold for 
children from low socio-economic status (SES) 
backgrounds: 2 

(2) Music and mathematics achievement. Students 
who report consistent high levels of involvement in 
instrumental music over the middle and high 

NELS:88 is managed by the National Center for Education 
Statistics at the Office for Educational Research and Improvement, 
United States Department of Education. The data and code books 
are available in various forms on CD Rom media for public use. 

SES, or socioeconomic status, is a measure of family education 
level, income, and type of job(s) held by parents. 

school years show significantly higher levels of 
mathematics proficiency by grade 12. This observa- 
tion holds both generally and for low SES students 
as a subgroup. In addition, absolute differences in 
measured mathematics proficiency between 
students consistently involved versus not involved 
in instrumental music grow significantly over time. 

(3) Theater arts and human development. Sustained 
student involvement in theater arts (acting in plays 
and musicals, participating in drama clubs, and 
taking acting lessons) associates with a variety of 
developments for youth: gains in reading profi- 
ciency, gains in self concept and motivation, and 
higher levels of empathy and tolerance for others. 
Our analyses of theater arts were undertaken for 
low SES youth only. Our presumption was that 
more advantaged youngsters would be more likely 
to be involved in theater and drama because of 
attendance at more affluent schools and because of 
parental ability to afford theater opportunities in 
the community or private sectors. 

We turn first to a brief summary of our initial 
release of data from this project and then to presenta- 
tions of some of the important observations from the 
later research. 

I. Initial Findings - Involvement in the Arts 
Generally and Student Academic Outcomes 

In mid 1997 we released a report of the effects 
of involvement in the visual and performing arts on 
student achievement in middle and high school. 
Published in the Americans for the Arts monograph 
series as "Involvement in the Arts and Success in 
Secondary School," 3 this analysis was based on a multi- 
year survey of more than 25,000 students sponsored 
by the United States Department of Education. 
The sample was created to be representative of the 
nation's population of secondary students. Our study 

James S. Catterall, Involvement in the Arts and Success in 
Secondary School. Washington, DC: Americans for the Arts 
monograph series, No. 9, 1998. 


offered the first reported analysis of information in the 
NELS:88 survey about student participation in the arts. 
We used a definition of "involvement in the arts" that 
gave students credit for taking arts-related classes in or 
out of school as well as involvement and leadership in 
school activities such as theater, band, orchestra, 
chorus, dance, and the visual arts. 

Our analyses found substantial and significant 
differences in achievement and in important attitudes 
and behaviors between youth highly involved in the arts 
on the one hand, and those with little or no arts engage- 
ment on the other hand. In addition — and more signifi- 
cant from a policy standpoint — the achievement 
differences between high- and low-arts youth were also 
significant for economically disadvantaged students. 
Twenty of the differences we found favoring arts-involved 

students were significant at the p<.001 level. (This means 
that the odds of the differences being caused by pure 
chance were smaller than one in one thousand.) Four 
differences were significant at the p<.01 level. The only 
difference not significant was performance on the history 
geography tests for low SES children. 

Figure 1 shows some of the key differences we 
found between students highly involved in the arts and 
non-involved students, both for all students in the 
NELS sample and for the low SES quartile respectively. 
The figure includes both academic measures and also 
indicators of students' regard for community service 
and measures of their television watching habits. 

Figure 1 shows consistently more favorable 
outcomes for students involved in the arts — higher 
achievement, staying in school, and better attitudes 

Figure 1: Comparisons of High Arts vs. Low Arts Students in Grades 8 and 10, All vs Low SES Background 

Grade 8 Academic Performance 

All Students 

Low SES Students 

High Arts 

Low Arts 

High Arts 

Low Arts 

Earning mostly As and Bs in English 





Scoring in top 2 quartiles on std. tests 





Dropping out by grade 10 





Bored in school half or most of the time 





Grade 10 Academic Performance 

Scoring in top 2 quartiles, Grade 10 





Std. Test Composite 

Scoring in top 2 quartiles in Reading 





Scoring in top 2 quartiles in History, 





Citizenship, Geography 

Grade 10 Attitudes and Behaviors 

Consider community service important or 





very important 

Television watching, weekdays 

percentage watching 1 hour or less 





percentage watching 3 hours or more 







about school and community. We also see marked 
differences in television watching habits, where arts 
involved youngsters watch considerably less. 

Both our earlier and present efforts provide 
evidence that achievement differences favoring young- 
sters involved in the arts are not simply a matter of 
parent income and education levels, which do tend to 
line up with children having more visual and perform- 
ing arts in their lives. Another result, as we spell out in 
more detail below, is that consistent involvement in the 
arts shows up in increased advantages for arts-rich 
youngsters over time, through 10th grade in our first 
analyses and through 12th grade in our later studies. 

Summarizing early results. 

A case for the importance of the arts in the acade- 
mic lives of middle and early high schoolers was the 
primary suggestion of our earlier research. The research 
did not definitively explain the differences shown, nor 
was it able to attribute student successes unequivocally 
to the arts. This caution rises in large part because panel 
studies are not well suited to unambiguous causal 
modeling. Nonetheless, the differences were striking, 
and the chief confounding variable, student family 
background, was reasonably accounted-for in the work. 

There are several theoretical rationales for why 
the arts might matter in the ways suggested. A previ- 
ous work by the first author explores much of this 
ground and points to distinct possibilities. 4 These are 
grouped into major categories including the various 
roles that the arts play in promoting cognitive devel- 
opment — from specific relations such as the influence 
of music on perception and comprehension in 
mathematics to the more general roles of imagery and 
representation in cognition. The arts serve to broaden 
access to meaning by offering ways of thinking and 
ways of representation consistent with the spectrum of 
intelligences scattered unevenly across our popula- 
tion — for example, resonating with the multiple and 
differing intelligences identified by Howard Gardner 

4 See Jaye T. Darby and James S. Catterall. The fourth R: The arts 
and learning. Teachers College Record, (1995). 

at Harvard. 5 The arts have also shown links to student 
motivation and engagement in school, attitudes that 
contribute to academic achievement. 6 Arts activities 
also can promote community — advancing shared 
purpose and team spirit required to perform in an 
ensemble musical group or dramatic production, or to 
design and paint an urban mural. With community 
surely comes empathy and general attachment to the 
larger values of the school and the adult society which 
high school students will soon join. 

Readers will note that we do not address here 
anything having to do with achievement in the arts 
per se, itself an important domain apart from any 
connections between the arts and more traditional 
academic success. The NELS: 88 data base shows a 
marked absence of indicators of achievement in the 
arts — a problem that should not go unnoticed as 
future national longitudinal surveys are planned. 

Finally, even in the absence of causal attributions 
yet to be proved, the perspectives we show elicit another 
reason to promote more involvement in the arts for 
more youngsters. This is the likely positive peer associa- 
tions accompanying involvement in the arts. Our 
analysis of the NELS:88 survey established, for the first 
time in any comprehensive way, that students involved 
in the arts are doing better in school than those who are 
not — for whatever constellation of reasons. Compendia 
of research on academic achievement going back three 
decades and more argue that the motivation and success 
of one's peers has an influence on how a youngster does 
in school. At very least, even our early comparisons 
support the contention that rubbing shoulders with 

5 See Howard Gardner: Frames of Mind (New York: Basic Books), 
1983; and The Arts and Human Development (New York: John 
Wiley), 1973. 

6 See Morrison Institute of Public Policy and The National 
Endowment for the Arts: Schools, Communities, and the Arts: A 
Research Compendium. Tempe, AZ: The Morrison Institute for 
Public Policy, Arizona State University and the National 
Endowment for the Arts (1995). Especially summary of report on 
the National Longitudinal Study of Different Ways of Knowing 
(The Galef Institute, Los Angeles). See also the monograph 
reporting evaluations of the Chicago Arts Partnerships in 
Education/this volume. 


arts-involved youngsters in the middle and high school 
years is typically a smart idea when it comes to choosing 
friends and activities. 

More Recent Findings 

Grants to the Imagination Project at UCLA from 
the GE Fund in September of 1997 and December of 
1998 supported extensions of this research. There were 
three general priorities for the newly-funded work: 

One priority was to extend the analyses describing 
developments up to grade 10 through the balance of 
high school and beyond. We here report results 
through grade 12. 

A second priority was to begin to conceptualize 
involvement in the arts in ways that could capture the 
potential value of "depth" of involvement. Our earlier 
work relied on measures of involvement that tended to 
reward widespread involvement over many artistic 
pursuits; the most "involved" students in our first study 
were largely those who attached themselves vigorously 
to several disciplines. There are good reasons, however, 
to believe that intensive involvement in a single 
discipline would act differently than scattered attention 
to diverse artistic endeavors. This is because different 
effects are touted for different arts disciplines, and 
depth of involvement in one might be expected to 
intensify particular effects. 

A third priority for the research was to explore 
possible connections between involvement in music and 
cognitive development. Much interest has been gener- 
ated by recent studies in neuroscience linking certain 
types of music training with positive developments in 

cognitive functioning. (We refer here especially to 
various studies of Gordon Shaw, Frances Rauscher, and 
others over the past 6 years described below.) 

Our first effort to explore the impact of depth of 
experience in the arts focused on students who 
reported sustained involvement in instrumental music, 
blending priorities two and three. Our second effort 
was to examine students who reported sustained 
involvement in the theater arts. The theoretical ratio- 
nales for inquiry aimed at theatre derive largely from a 
literature focused on theater in education and drama in 
the classroom produced mainly over several decades of 
research and scholarly writing in Great Britain. 

Extending Analyses of Effects of Involvement in the 
Arts through Grade 12 

Involvement in the Arts as of Grade 12. Before 
examining outcomes, we first found that levels of 
student involvement in the arts declined between grades 
10 and 12. As of the spring of the senior year, twelfth 
graders fell off in reported involvement in the arts when 
compared to grade 10. For example, whereas 22.7 percent 
of 10th graders reported involvement in band or 
orchestra and 23.3 percent showed involvement in 
chorus or choir, fewer than 20 percent showed involve- 
ment in any school musical group by grade 12, as shown 
in Figure 2. Figure 2 also shows that the percentages of 
students taking out-of-school classes in music, art, or 
dance also declined markedly between grades 10 and 12. 
Especially notable is the drop from more than 1 1 percent 
to fewer than 3 percent of students taking daily out of 
school lessons in grade 10 versus grade 12. 

Figure 2: Percentages of Students Involved in Arts Related Activities 
Reported in the NELS:88 Data Base, Grade 12 vs. Grade 10. 

Grade 12 

Grade 10 

Participates in: School Music Group 


Band or Orchestra 


School Play/Musical 


Chorus or Choir 


Takes out-of-school classes in Music, Art, 

or Dance: 

Takes out-of-school classes 

in Music, Art, or Dance: 

rarely or never 


rarely or never: 


less than 1/week 


less than 1/week 


1-2 per week 


1-2 per week 


every day or almost 


every day or almost 




High- Versus Low- Arts Involvement and General 
Student Performance. 

One of our objectives in the latest phase of this 
research was to extend earlier analyses through grade 
12. In Figure 3, we recount key observed differences 
between high-and low-arts involved students as of 
grades 8 and 10, and then show differences accruing 
through grade 12. 

As seen in Figure 3, performance differences 
between arts-involved and non-involved students 
remained about the same across grade levels in nominal 
terms — showing up typically as 16 to 18 percentage 
point differences. For example, the percentage of low- 
arts students scoring in the top half of the standardized 
test distribution was 47.5 percent in grade 10, while 65.7 
percent of high-arts students scored above the test score 

median — an 18.2 percentage point difference at that 
grade level. At grade 12, the respective figures are 39.3 
and 57.4 percent, an 18.1 percentage point difference. 

Within the general trends in achievement differ- 
ences, it can be seen that the relative advantage of 
involvement in the arts increased appreciably over 
time. This is shown in the relative sizes of the sub- 
groups doing well from the arts-involved and non- 
involved groups respectively, which grow over time. 
By the 12th grade, the nominal 18 percentage point 
difference amounts to a 46 percent advantage for the 
high-arts group where 57.4 percent scored well 
compared to 39.3 percent from the low-arts group 
(57.4/39.3 = 1.46 or a 46 percent advantage). 

Figure 4 shows what the comparative achievement 
advantages for involvement in the arts look like over 

Figure 3. Involvement in the Arts and Academic Performance 

8th Grade 

% in each group 

High Involvement 

Low Involvement 

Earning mostly As and Bs in English 



Top 2 quartiles on std. tests 



Dropping out by grade 10 



Bored in school half or most of time 



10th Grade 

% in each group 

High Involvement 

Low Involvement 

Top 2 quartiles std. tests 



Top 2 quartiles Reading 



Level 2 (high) Reading Proficiency 



Top 2 quartiles History/Geography/Citizenship 



12th Grade 

% in each group 

High Involvement 

Low Involvement 

Top 2 quartiles std tests 



Top 2 quartiles Reading 



Level 2 or 3 (high) Reading Proficiency 



Top 2 quartiles History/Geography/Citizenship 



it:.. tttitti ■..' ,;,, :;,.,. 


time for all students; all group differences (except the 
history/geography test for low SES students) are 
significant at greater than a 99 percent confidence level. 
Most remain significant at the .999 confidence level. 

Figure 4. Comparative Advantages in Composite Test 
Scores, High vs. Low Arts, Grades 8 through 12 


8th 1 0th 



This general pattern of increasing advantages is 
replicated for various measures in addition to compos- 
ite test scores — meaning that high arts youngsters did 
comparatively better on multiple measures as they 
passed from grade 8 to grade 12. 

Socio-Economic Status and Involvement in the Arts 

As shown in Figure 5 below, we continue to find 
substantial differences in the family income and 
education levels between our high arts and low arts 
groups. The probability of being "high arts" remains 
almost twice as high for students from economically 
advantaged families, and the probability of low arts 
involvement is about twice as high if one comes from 
an economically disadvantaged family. 

This is why the following analyses of achievement 
restricted to low SES students are very important. Not 

only are achievement issues typically more profound 
for children from families with less education and fewer 
economic resources, but high SES children simply have 
more opportunities to be involved in the arts. When we 
compare groups of students by arts involvement only, 
the differences are more likely to be caused by differ- 
ences in family background than anything else. 

Figure 5: Probability of High vs. Low Arts 
Involvement by Student SES 

Probability of High Arts Involvement 

High SES Quartile 
Low SES Quartile 

Probability of Low Arts Involvement 


High SES Quartile 
Low SES Quartile 



Achievement Differences, Low SES Students 

Here we begin with our findings concerning grade 
8, grade 10, and grade 12 performance differences 
within the low SES quartile — the fourth of all students 
at the bottom of the family income and education 
ladder. This group represents families where parents 
typically graduated from high school and went no 
further with their education, as well as families where 
parents never finished high school. 

As shown in Figure 6, the patterns shown for low 
SES students over time bear similarities to those shown 
for all students. The percentage differences in perfor- 
mance are smaller in nominal terms — for example 8 to 
10 percent lower for test scores. But once again, the 
relative advantage for arts-involved youngsters increases 
over the middle and high school years, and especially 
between grades 10 and 12. 

Figure 7 on the following page illustrates this 
pattern for composite standardized test scores where 
the comparative advantage for high arts, low-SES, 
youngsters is about 32 percent by grade 12: 



Figure 6: Involvement in the Arts and Academic Performance and Attitudes, 
Low SES Students (Low Parent Education/Income) 

8th Grade 

% in each group 

High Involvement 

Low Involvement 

Top 2 quartiles std tests 



Mostly As and Bs in English 



Dropping out by grade 10 



Bored in school half or most of time 



10th Grade 

% in each group 

High Involvement 

Low Involvement 

Top 2 quartiles std tests 



Top 2 quartiles reading 



Level 2 Reading Proficiency 



Top 2 quartiles History/Geography/Citizenship 



12th Grade 

% in each group 

High Involvement 

Low Involvement 

Top 2 quartiles std tests 



Top 2 quartiles reading 



Top 2 quartiles History/Geography/Citizenship 



Level 2 or 3 Reading Proficiency 



Figure 7. Comparative Advantages, High vs. Low Arts, 
Low SES Students, Grades 8-12, Standardized Test Scores 



8th 1 0th 



This concludes our presentation concerning 
differences between students generally highly involved 
in the arts as compared to their non-involved peers. 
The main points of the analysis so far are that arts- 
involved students do better on many measures, their 
performance advantages grow over time, and that these 
two general performance comparisons also hold for 
low SES children. We will probe these findings in more 
detail in the discussion concluding this monograph. 
We turn now to two cases of intensive involvement in 
specific arts disciplines. 



II. Intensive Involvement Within an Arts 
Discipline. The Cases of Instrumental Music 
and Drama/Theater. 

A new strain of our work, and a departure from 
our first monograph which adopted a more general 
orientation to involvement in the arts, is a study of 
youngsters who exhibit very high levels of involvement 
within a single arts discipline over the secondary school 
years. Readers may recall that the analyses reported 
above were built on a conception of involvement 
defined as "the more involvement in more arts, the 
higher the student's involvement score." As such, a 
student who only participated in an orchestra and took 
music lessons, no matter how intensively, would not 
have been a high-arts student in our first analyses. 

Yet intensive involvement in a single discipline 
should probably be thought to be even more important 
developmentally than high levels of more diverse 
involvement in the arts. This is surely true if specific 
arts act in specific ways on cognition or other develop- 
ments. That is an assumption we are comfortable 
making and could defend at some length. In general, 
the argument is that different art forms involve differ- 
ent skills and different sorts of human interaction. In 
short, they impact cognitive and motor processes 
differently and should be expected to result in different 
outcomes. We will save a more in-depth discussion of 
this for another paper. 

Involvement in Instrumental Music 

Involvement in Instrumental Music and Cognitive 
Development in Mathematics. We were interested in 
exploring involvement in music because of accumu- 
lated studies over the past 7-8 years suggesting that 
certain kinds of musical experiences, especially key- 
board training, seem to produce effects on cognitive 
functioning in young children. Other potentially 
important aspects of the musical experience are 
learning to read music and to associate musical 
notation with abstract concepts of time, rhythm, and 
pitch. These experiences at first glance appear to involve 
forms of mathematical reasoning — the fractional senses 

of different musical notes (whole notes, half notes, and 
so on), the relative distances of notes within scales, the 
perfect doubles and halves in the pitch frequencies of 
octaves, and even the relations among dynamics within 
a musical passage. For some musical instruments, such 
as the piano, there is an associated geometry of music 
that probably reinforces the spatial-temporal reasoning 
effects noted by Rauscher et al. For other instruments, 
such as the strings, there are complex linear geometries 
associated with pitch that bring spatial reasoning to the 
production of musical sounds and phrases. 

What has research on music suggested? While it 
would appear that the domains of music and mathe- 
matics are widely divergent, an increasing number of 
studies focusing on participation in musical activity 
and cognitive development in mathematics suggest 
that the two are closely related. An important skill 
developed while a child begins the study of music is 
reading musical notation, the symbol system which 
represents elements of rhythm and pitch, the funda- 
mental building blocks of music. It is the analysis of 
music at this basic level which reveals the most 
obvious connection between music and mathematics 
(Bahna-James, 1991). 

Rhythm, here defined as a numerical pattern of 
beats occurring over time, is represented by a series of 
notes ranging from whole notes (usually 1 beat per 
measure) to quarter notes (4 beats per measure) to 
eighth, sixteenth and even 32nd and 64th notes. Two 
fundamental mathematical skills are required in order 
to understand the time meaning represented in a note: 
the ability to count beats, which allows for an under- 
standing of the absolute value of a note in a measure, 
and general fractional or proportional sense, which 
allows for an understanding of each note type in 
relation to the other. 

A second feature depicted by musical notation is 
pitch or frequency, which denotes the relative tonal 
distances between notes within scales, chords, and 
intervals. These relationships in and of themselves are 
abstract and difficult to conceptualize; the use of 
musical instruments such as the violin, clarinet, or piano 



helps make these tonal relationships concrete. The 
keyboard in particular has been singled out in research 
by Rauscher and Shaw (1997) on spatial-temporal 
reasoning as a form of reasoning ability postulated to 
directly affect mathematical understanding. The results 
from their work show that keyboard training is a more 
effective intervention on spatial-temporal reasoning 
skills than singing lessons and computer training and 
suggest that mastering a musical instrument aids in 
developing mathematical understanding. 

Initial studies correlating the grades of secondary 
school students in music theory and math classes 
(Bahna- James, 1991) as well as teacher evaluation of 
instrumental and scholastic achievement for elementary 
school students (Klinedinst, 1991) revealed a variety of 
significant relationships between mathematics achieve- 
ment and music performance. These included sight- 
singing and arithmetic, algebra and geometry; pitch and 
arithmetic; and finally tonal relationships and arithmetic 
and algebra. The work by Bahna-James ( 1991) further 
showed that the correlation between math grades and 
music theory grades of secondary school students 
increases when the mathematics being taught is of a 
more elementary level and the numerical relationships 
are simple. Some findings provide additional support 
for the notion that the fundamental components of 
music are inherently mathematical in nature. 

Research by Shaw et al. (Boettcher, Hahn & Shaw, 
1994; Grandin, Peterson & Shaw, 1998; Graziano, Shaw 
& Wright, 1997; Rauscher & Shaw, 1997, Rauscher & 
Shaw, 1998) drawing in part from the seminal work of 
Chase 8c Simon (1973) on how chess experts process 
information, has suggested that cognition in music, 
mathematics and complex games are activities driven 
by pattern recognition and manipulation, and as such 
are affected by spatial-temporal reasoning ability. Of 
particular interest is their study (mentioned above) 
which focuses on the effect of keyboard training on the 
spatial-temporal reasoning of young children as 
measured by a series of object assembly tasks. These 
assembly tasks require matching, classifying, and 
recognizing similarities and relationships among 

displayed objects. Keyboard training alone (rather than 
training in singing or simple arithmetic through the use 
of computer games) had a significant effect on chil- 
dren's ability to classify and recognize similarities and 
relationships between objects; this provides further 
evidence for the contention that at the most abstract 
level, music, like mathematics, requires the ability to 
recognize patterns and relations. 

Intensive Music Involvement in NELS:88. We here 
report our explorations of differences shown by students 
who were heavily involved in instrumental music 
throughout the first three panels of the NELS:88 survey — 
8th, 10th and 12th grades. We add a word of caution at 
this point. Some of the studies discussed above were 
studies of music experiences in their natural state and 
their associations with spatial-temporal reasoning or 
mathematics-related learning. These were generally 
situations where there was no intention in the curriculum 
to bolster math-related skills; the researchers simply 
wondered if increased skills related to mathematics were a 
serendipitous byproduct of the music experience. Other 
studies were launched with the expressed intention of 
producing and tracking connections between learning in 
both the musical and mathematical domains. Both types 
of studies have found connections between music and 
mathematics cognition. Our work focuses on apparently 
serendipitous associations between reported involvement 
in instrumental music and reports of growth in mathe- 
matics proficiency for students. 

The following chart shows one early result of our 
work. We examined the probability that students in 
different groups — differing mainly by involvement in 
instrumental music — would attain the highest levels of 
mathematics proficiency on the 12th grade tests used in 
the NELS:88 study. We also differentiated our analyses 
by family income and education levels, or SES. 

In Figure 8 below, it can be seen that the overall 
probability of scoring high in mathematics (that is, the 
probability of such performance among all 12th grade 
students) is about 21 percent. These students score at 
Levels 4 and 5 on the NELS:88 mathematics test, 
performance levels indicative of strong success through 


Figure 8. Probability of Highest Math Proficiency (Levels 4 or 5), Grade 12, By Group — SES and Consistent High 
vs. No Involvement in Band/Orchestra 

High SES, High Music 

High SES, No Music 


O Low SES, High Music 


All Students 

Low SES, No Music 

20 30 


at least three years of high school mathematics. From 
this baseline, the comparisons become quite interesting. 
First, all high SES students in our "high" and "no music" 
groups do better in mathematics than the average 
student. Second, within groups, students concentrating 
in instrumental music do substantially better in mathe- 
matics than those with no involvement in music. And 
third, low SES students with high involvement in music 
do better than the average student at attaining high 
levels of mathematics proficiency. The performance 
distribution for extremely low levels of mathematics 
proficiency, Level 1 and below, is a mirror opposite to 
the one shown in Figure 8. 

Do math skills grow over time with involvement in 
instrumental music? 

The NELS:88 data base allows for comparisons 
over time, an important feature in the creation of 

arguments addressing the causes of observed differ- 
ences between or among groups of interest. Here we 
observe how music-involved students compared with 
their non-music peers as of 8th grade and revisit the 
exact same students again in grade 12. Figure 9 shows 
performance level distributions for grade 8 groups of 
interest, including overall average scores, averages for 
all low SES students, averages of all low SES students 
with no music involvement, and low SES students 
with high involvement in orchestra and/or band. The 
levels shown refer to successively higher levels of 
proficiency, and they are scaled by specific skills and 
knowledge of test takers. (The NELS:88 test used here 
are criterion-referenced exams, like the tests used for 
the National Assessment of Educational Progress.) 
Their purpose is to gauge skill development against 
standards of performance and not to place students 
on some national norm scale. Level 3 would be 

Figure 9: Math Proficiency Scores at Grade 8, Percentages Scoring at Each Level 

Math Proficiency Scores 

Below 1 
Level 1 
Level 2 
Level 3 


Average-Low SES 


Music-Low SES 

Orch/Band-Low SES 

N = 14,915 

N = 7,052 

N = I,2I6 

N = 260 



















Figure 10. Math Proficiency Scores at Grade 12, Percentages Scoring at Each Level 

Math Profi cier 




Average-Low S E S 

No Music-Low 



Band-Low SES 


N = I4.9!5 

N = 7.052 


N = 260 

Below 1 





Level 1 





Level 2 





Level 3 





Level 4 





Level 5 





considered high-performing at grade 8; Levels 4 and 5 
would be considered high-performing at grade 12.) 

In Figure 9, it can be seen that twice as many low 
SES 8th graders in Band and/or Orchestra score at high 
levels in mathematics as did low SES 8th graders with 
no reported involvement in instrumental music — 21.2 
percent versus only 10.7 percent For grade 8, the 
percentages of low SES students who would eventually 
show consistentiy high involvement in orchestra/band 
show math scores lower the average student, with about 
10.8 percent of music-involved students scoring very 
low ( below Level 1) and 15.3 percent of all students 
scoring as poorly. By grade 12, the differentials increas- 
ingly favor students heavily involved in instrumental 
music, especially the percentages of students perform- 
ing at the highest levels (levels 4 and 5). 

Through summing percentages shown in Figure 10 
for students performing at levels 4 and 5, we see that 
thirty three percent of high-music/low SES students 
test at high levels of mathematics proficiency. This 33.1 
percent should be compared to only 21.3 percent for 
"all" students, and only 15.5 percent of no-music, low 
SES students who score at high levels in mathematics 
by grade 12. 

A most significant dynamic underlies the data 
in Figure 10. As of 8th grade, low SES, high-music 
youngsters perform on a par with the average student — 
about 21 percent at high math proficiency versus 
19 percent for the average student. By 12th grade, the 
high performing gap between low SES, high-music 

students and the average student has grown to about 
33 percent versus 21 percent. 

Figure 11 shows how the absolute performance 
gaps between the low SES students involved in music 
versus low SES non-music youth have grown consider- 
ably between grades 8 and 12. 

Figure 1 1 shows math proficiency developments 
for low SES youngsters in perspective. In the NELS 
sample, there were 260 low SES students who qualified 

Figure 11. Percentages of Students Scoring 
High Math Proficiency, by involvement level in 
instrumental music, Low SES 









Q Low SES 

, no music 

' Low SES, high music 


Grade 8 Grade 12 

Grade and Music Involvement 


as intensively involved in instrumental music over the 
span of grades 8 through 12. As of the 8th grade, these 
260 students were outperforming the 1,216 low SES 
students with no music involvement in mathematics; 
about 20 versus 10 percent scored at the highest levels 
of the mathematics proficiency scale. By grade 12, 
these same 260 students were outperforming all low 
SES no-music students by a considerably larger 
margin — about 33 percent were at the highest levels of 
mathematics performance versus only 1 5 percent for 
their non-music peers. 

Involvement in Theater 

We turn here to another exploration of intensive 
involvement in a single artistic discipline, in this case 
the theater arts. 

Our interest in the theater arts grows from a history 
of scholarship exploring the meaning and importance of 
theater and drama in education over the past three 
decades. The central figures are number of prominent 
university faculty in Great Britain. The United Kingdom 
has been the setting for a substantial Theater in 
Education (or TIE) movement during this time. 7 TIE 
refers to theatrical companies taking up residencies of 
varying duration at schools, usually bringing produc- 
tions designed to provoke thought and discussion of 
important themes, as well as to entertain. There are also 
numerous devotees of "drama in education" in England, 
including many of the nation's elementary school 
teachers. This term refers to the use of drama in the 
classroom for various purposes — learning about history, 
conflict resolution, learning about oneself, learning 
stagecraft, learning acting, and so on. 8 Drama in 
education is formally recognized as a curricular tool in 
the current National Curriculum in Britain, although 
neither drama nor theater are required subjects. 
University teacher education faculties maintain lecture- 
ships and even a professorship or two in drama in 

See Jackson, Tony, Learning Through Theater: new perspectives 
on theater in education. Second edition. London: Routledge, 1993. 

See Bolton, Gavin, Drama as Education: an argument for placing 
drama at the center of the curriculum. Longman, 1984. 

education, so that teachers in training can learn to use 
dramatic forms in their future classrooms. Britain also 
boasts a remarkable individual, Dorothy Heathcote, who 
has become a legendary teacher trainer through a non- 
stop series of teacher workshops and residencies that 
have not slowed for 40 years, even as she enters her mid- 
705. Ms. Heathcote advocates that teachers get into roles, 
along with their students, as they teach. She usually 
presents her workshops in role to make her points. 

In surveying what is known about the impact of 
theater and drama on children, Tony Jackson from the 
University of Manchester identifies "change of under- 
standing" as the general purpose. He goes on to 
emphasize that the changes of understanding can be 
about both form and content in theater. Children learn 
about the art form as well as about other ends related 
to personal or social development. Among the latter, 
Jackson enumerates learning about, " interac- 
tion, discipline, language usage, self esteem, and 
movement skills." 9 Heathcote reminds us also that 
drama provides situations where we can or must put 
ourselves into the place of another; thus empathy for 
others is a possible or even likely outcome of the 
dramatic experience. 10 

The strength of evidence for specific impacts of 
theater and drama claimed by these and other scholars 
tends to be weak. Drama and theater are complex 
events with many possible effects. Even if it were 
feasible to design studies looking for the impact of 
theater experience on such things as actor self esteem or 
language facility, objections by artists about taking so 
narrow a view of the experience would likely interfere. 
In any event, what we tend most to benefit from is the 
accumulation of case studies 11 , and the informed 
observations of senior scholars who have been attached 
to TIE or drama in education and who have come to 

9 Jackson, op. cit, p. 44. 

10 O'Neill and Johnson, op.cit. p. 129. 

11 Tony Jackson. Learning Through Theater: Essays and Casebooks 
on Theater in Education. Manchester: Manchester University, 
1980. Also Dorothy Heathcote, Drama and Learning, Chapter in 
O'Neill and Johnson, op.cit. pp. 90-102. 



their own understanding through the gradual acquisi- 
tion of research and professional knowledge. 

We turn in a moment to our exploration of 
developments for middle and high-schoolers intensively 
involved in theater and drama. But we should begin by 
noting that the theater in education experiences on 
which we focus are not strictly those of central interest 
to scholars of drama and theater in education in the 
UK. The students in our study identified through 
NELS:88 data as intensively involved in theater are 
those who have attended a drama class once per week 
or more as of 8th grade, participated in a drama club as 
of 8th grade, taken drama coursework in grade 10, and 
participated in a school play or musical in grades 10 
and 12. — or at least most of the above. Officers of these 
organizations were assigned extra "credit" toward 
intense involvement. 

As such, our drama and theater students were not 
necessarily associated with TIE (formal theater groups 
in residence on campus) or with drama in education 
(the use of dramatic forms in the individual class- 
room for various curricular purposes). These are the 
kingpins of drama and theater in education in Britain 
and the experiences generating our hypotheses for 

this exploration. Our interest centered on whether or 
not some of the claimed benefits of drama and 
theater from across the Atlantic show up in the 
NELS:88 data. 

Theater and Language Skills. NELS:88 does not 
contain a measure of spoken language skills, but the 
data do track the development of reading proficiency 
over each survey year. We examined the progression of 
reading skills for two groups of low SES students 
beginning in grade 8. One group had no involvement 
in theater, and the other group was highly involved in 
theater. (This group consisted of the 285 highest 
theater-involved, low SES students in the entire 
NELS:88 sample.) 

The pattern in the reading proficiency data is 
fairly clear. The involved students outscored the non- 
involved students as of 8th grade; both groups gain 
skill as they proceed through high school; and the 
difference favoring students involved in theater grows 
steadily to where nearly 20 percent more are reading 
at high proficiency by grade 12. (The advantage was 
only 9 percent back in grade 8.) This seems reasonable 
in that students involved in drama and theater, 
according to our definition of intensive involvement, 

Figure 12. Percentages of Students above median academic self concept by grade, 
Hi Dramatic Arts Involvement vs. no involvement; all low SES 









Grade 8 

Grade 10 

I High Drama j No Drama 

Grade 12 


probably spend time reading and learning lines as 
actors, and possibly reading to carry out research on 
characters and their settings. In any case, theater is a 
language-rich environment and actively engages 
students with issues of language. 

Theater and Self Concept. Because the English 
researchers list self esteem as a corollary of engage- 
ment with drama and theater, we examined the 
progression of a general self-concept measure in 
NELS:88 over grades 8 through 12 and compared our 
theater-involved to non-involved low SES students. 
Figure 12 shows that the "high drama" group main- 
tained a small edge in self concept throughout the 
longitudinal study. Both groups gain over the four 
years involved, and a slightly bigger gap favoring those 
intensively involved in theater opened up by grade 12. 
(By grade 12, the difference shown in Figure 12 
became significant (p<.058)). 

Involvement in theater and empathy and toler- 
ance. Dorothy Heathcote reminded us that a dramatic 
experience is an opportunity to put oneself into 
another's shoes. This is true when taking on a role; it is 
also true when, as a character in role, one labors to 
understand how another character encountered on 
stage has conceptualized and enacted his or her role, or 
to comprehend how his or her character is understood 
by others. Theater is loaded with potential opportuni- 
ties to interact with students to whom one might not 
gravitate in the ordinary course of school life, includ- 
ing students from other economic strata and other 
racial groups. This holds both for interactions in role 
and for interactions with other members of the cast as 
a play or scene or improvisation is developed. 

We found two indicators related to "tolerance" 
and "empathy" in NELS:88 and show the results on 
the following pages. Once again, we are comparing 
low SES students, one group with no involvement in 
theater and the other with high involvement over all 
of the high school years. 

Race relations. The first indicator is shown in 
Figure 13. This reflects student responses to the 

question, "Are students friendly with other racial 
groups?" Students involved in theater are more likely 
than all 12th graders to say yes to this question, by 
27 percent to 20 percent. This difference may be an 
effect of involvement in theater. It also may be an 
artifact of unknown differences in schools attended by 
students where theater programs are offered. For other 
unknown reasons, relations among racial groups may 
be more positive at the schools of our high-theater 
involvement students. This difference is not statisti- 
cally significant, in part an artifact of the small low- 
SES, high-theater sample. 

A similar perspective is shown in Figure 14 on the 
following page. Here students at grade 10 were asked 
if it was OK to make a racist remark. About 40 percent 
more "no-drama" students felt that making such a 
remark would be OK, where only about 12 percent 
of high theater students thought the same, and about 
17 percent of no theater students agreed. In this case, 
the advantage favoring high-theater students is 
statistically significant (p<.05). 

Figure 13: Are students friendly with other racial groups? 
Students in lowest 2 SES quartiles. 




All Students High Drama 

Involvement in Drama/Theatre 



Figure 14. Percentage of 10th Graders feel it's OK 
to make Racist Remark 




All SES I or 2 SES I or 2 High Drama 
Involvement in Drama/Theatre 

As with the data bearing on students "getting 
along" with others of different races (Figure 13), what 
is shown in Figure 14 may indicate an effect of 
involvement in theater and it may also be influenced 
by unknown school differences. 


The kinds of comparisons and analyses shown 
above are sure to provoke several kinds of questions 
surrounding the meaning of the data and the 
approach we took to examining and displaying the 
figures. In this concluding section, we attempt to 
anticipate some of these questions and also to suggest 
the implications of what we report. 

Are our conceptions of the arts too concerned 
with non-arts outcomes? The purpose of this research 
was to examine some of the non-arts outcomes of 
engagement in the arts. Because we chose this purpose 
does not mean that we do not recognize or value the 
myriad goals that education in and involvement in the 
arts serve. Certainly involvement in the broad spec- 

trum of arts captured in our more general assessment 
will mean many things to students that we did not set 
out to capture. Not the least of these are skills in the 
various arts themselves, competencies as critics of art 
forms, aesthetic awarenesses, cultural understandings, 
appreciations valuable in their own right, and new- 
found powers and joys to see and express. 

Our analysis of involvement in instrumental music 
captured a sense of this activity that is clearly not an 
intentional part of music instruction or participation 
for many. It just happens that research is suggesting 
links between music and mathematics reasoning that 
we took the opportunity to explore. A larger case for 
instrumentality connected to theater and drama has 
been articulated in the writings and research of English 
scholars, and we explored a handful of such possibilities 
through NELS:88 data. 

So yes, this analysis is concerned with non-arts 
outcomes of the arts in education. For now, we save 
research on the arts-related goals of arts education and 
participation in the arts for other scholars and to us, 
for a future date. 

What can be said about causation in this analysis? 
Establishing causation in education and social science 
research is difficult. The essential question that should be 
aimed at this type of work is what evidence supports 
contentions that involvement in the arts, or music, or 
theater "caused" the differences in groups reported above. 

Any convictions that causation is involved depend 
mainly on three elements of the research — sound 
theory, supportive evidence, and ruling out rival 
explanations. First is the presence of a sound theory 
consistent with explanations that the arts should 
matter. In the case of all three of our analyses, we built 
our instincts around previous research suggestive of 
causal propositions. The strength of the case is 
perhaps most developed in the instance of music and 
mathematics-related cognitive development. 
Incidental benefits of theater have been argued and 
studied in the UK for decades. The general effects of 
broad involvement in the arts are supported most by 
research that has shown that children are more 


i\<K*- < l.Lij^^:i»^i = '»,<yi = kll 

engaged and cognitively involved in school when the 
arts are part of, or integrated into, the curriculum. 12 

A second element is observational data support- 
ing the causal theory. If one cannot find an empirical 
link between participation in the arts and specific 
outcomes, it is difficult to argue that the arts are 
causing anything. A version of this argument is that 
one cannot support causation without significant 
correlation. The tables above illustrate correlations 
between arts participation and various outcomes, 
some quite strong. 

The third element is the elimination of rival 
hypotheses. This is first carried out by trying to make 
comparison groups as similar as possible, with the only 
remaining difference being, in our case, intensive arts 
participation or none. We pursued this by restricting 
our groups to low SES students, so that differences in 
family background would not be driving observed 
differences. We also tend to eliminate rival hypotheses 
by observing changes over time for the same students. 
In all three sections of the work, advantages favoring 
arts — involved students appear to grow over time, 
which strengthens the sense of causal ordering — first 
arts immersion, then developmental effects. 

A rival hypothesis we have not ruled out is that, 
systematically, the more arts-involved students 
attended more effective schools over middle and high 
school. To be truly preemptive, a "better school" 
explanation would have to hold for all three of our 
main comparison frames (general arts involvement, 
music involvement, and theater involvement). These 
comparisons were constructed differently, showed arts 
advantages on many different outcomes, and involved 
different students and different schools. An overriding 
better school explanation is not likely. 

What are the implications of this research? This 
paper presents observations from a large-scale data 
base of U.S. secondary school students suggesting 
positive associations between involvement in various 

See chapter in this volume on the evaluation of the Chicago Arts 
Partnerships in Education for discussions and evidence concerning 
integration of the arts into the academic curriculum. 

arts and academic and social outcomes. The work 
supports strong suggestions, but is not definitive. No 
one study ever decides issues in this sort of research. 
Our knowledge base grows incrementally with the 
accumulation of consistent studies, and with the 
accumulation of professional knowledge by educators, 
school leaders, parents, students, and in this case artists 
involved in the schools. 

The main implication of this work is that the arts 
appear to matter when it comes to a variety of non- 
arts outcomes, some of them intended and some not. 
The advantages accruing to arts involvement show up 
as both a general relationship, as well as in relations 
between specific art forms such as instrumental music 
and theater and specific developments for youngsters. 

In addition, although not the main theme of this 
paper, our data support long-held concerns that access 
to the arts is inequitably distributed in our society. 
Students from poor and less educated families are 
much more likely to record low levels of participation 
in the arts during the middle and high school years; 
affluent youngsters are much more likely to show high, 
rather than low engagement the arts. If our analysis is 
reasonable, the arts do matter — not only as worthwhile 
experiences in their own right for reasons not 
addressed here, but also as instruments of cognitive 
growth and development and as agents of motivation 
for school success. In this light, unfair access to the arts 
for our children brings consequences of major impor- 
tance to our society. 

Finally, this work also suggests the value of 
future research. One important stream would be to 
follow the XELS:88 sample into young adulthood to 
explore sustaining effects. Another is the promise of 
more up close and controlled research that could 
further test our findings. Traditionally, the strongest 
research approach is the use of randomized studies. 
But random assignment to involvement in the arts is 
problematic when the issue is long term, natural 
engagement with the arts — the topic our research is 
concerned with. Also, long term deprivation in the 
arts, implied when enlisting purposeful control groups 



to study the importance of the arts, is probably 
unethical and could be considered potentially harmful 
to children. 

Productive approaches to additional research may 
include phenomenological studies that probe the 
meanings of art experiences to individual children or 
educators. Studies may include up-close longitudinal 
studies of students heavily involved in music or 
theater (or other art disciplines) at the single or 
multiple-school level to explore changes over time. 
Studies should include school-level or larger scale 
studies of initiatives attempting to bring arts integra- 
tion to the curriculum. 13 Knowledge will grow at the 
intersection of multiple and diverse studies of what 
the arts mean for human development. 


Bahna-James, T. (1991). The relationship between mathemat- 
ics and music: secondary school student perspectives. Journal 
of Negro Education, 60, 477-485. 

Boettcher, W., Hahn, S., & Shaw, G. (1994). Mathematics and 
music: A search for insight into higher brain function. 
Leonardo Music Journal, 4, 53-58. 

Bolton, G., (1984) Drama as Education: an argument for 
placing drama at the center of the curriculum. Longman. 

Chase, W.G. & Simon, H.A. (1973). Perception in Chess. 
Cognitive Psychology, 4, 55-81. 

Darby, J. T. & Catterall, J.S. (1994). The fourth R: The arts 
and learning. Teachers College Record, 96/2. 

Grandin, T, Peterson, M., & Shaw, G. (1998). Spatial- 
temporal versus language analytic reasoning: the role of music 
training. Arts Education Policy Review, 99, 11-14. 

Graziano, A., Shaw, G., & Wright, E. (1997). Music training 
enhance spatial-temporal reasoning in young children. Early 
Childhood Connections, Summer, 31-37. 

Heathcote, D.(1984) Drama and Learning, Chapter in O'Neill 
and Johnson, op.cit. pp. 90-102. 

Jackson, T. (1980) Learning Through Theatre: Essays and 
Casebooks on Theatre in Education. Manchester: Manchester 

Jackson, T (1993) Learning Through Theatre: new perspectives 
on theatre in education. Second edition. London: Routledge. 

Klinedinst, R. (1991). Predicting performance achievement 
and retention of fifth-grade instrumental students. Journal of 
Research in Music Education, 39, 225-238. 

O'Neill, C. and Johnson, L. (1984) Dorothy Heathcote: 
Collected Writings on Education and Drama. Cheltenham, UK: 
Stanley Thornes (Publishers) Ltd. 

Rauscher, R, Shaw, G., & Ky, K. (1995). Listening to Mozart 
enhances spatial-temporal reasoning: towards a neurophysio- 
logical basis. Neuroscience letters, 185, 44-47. 

Rauscher, R, Shaw G., Levine, L., Wright, E., Dennis W, 8c 
Newcomb, R. (1997). Music training causes long-term 
enhancement of preschool children's spatial-temporal 
reasoning. Neurological Research, 19, 2-8. 

Rauscher, E, 8c Shaw, G. (1998). Key components of the 
Mozart effect. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 86, 835-841. 

The Imagination Project is currently conducting such an 
investigation — the 6th and 7th year evaluations of the Chicago Arts 
Partnerships in Education. See summary report in this volume. 

Imaginative Actuality 

Learning in the Arts 
during the Nonschool Hours 


Stanford University and Carnegie Foundation 
for the Advancement of Teaching 



It is easy to think that imagination begins where 
fact ends, yet we often find greatest evidence of 
the creative in objective reality. This is a report 
of empirical data on imagination at work in places 
and by people invisible to most of us and little 
evidenced in current discussions of education. It 
explores how young people and professional artists in 
economically disadvantaged communities make 
learning work in community-based organizations 
devoted to production and performance in the arts. 
First we review the general parameters of the broad 
research study from which learning in the arts 
emerged as of special interest. Next we consider 
findings related to all effective youth organizations, 
regardless of focus of activity. 

Before we jump into just how the arts work in 
these environments, we need to learn something of the 
larger study which gave rise to the findings on art 
reported here. 1 This study was designed to allow 
anthropologists and policy analysts to understand 
effective learning sites that young people choose for 
themselves in their nonschool hours. By questioning 
local policymakers and collecting public documents, 
policy analysts learned much about the broad context 
of youth organizations and their support. 
Anthropologists spent time immersed, often over 
several years, in each site, following talk, work pat- 
terns, and interactions of youth members. 

1 Awarded to Shirley Brice Heath and Milbrey W. McLaughlin as 
co-principal investigators, funding for the major portion of this 
research was provided by The Spencer Foundation. Additional 
support came from the General Electric Fund and the Carnegie 
Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Members of the 
key research team included nineteen young ethnographers. 
Key researchers on arts organizations were Heath, Roach and 
Elisabeth Soep. This paper is a substantially revised version of 
two briefing papers. The first was prepared by Heath and Soep 
and presented as "Briefing Materials: Champions of Change 
Conference, Wang Center, Boston, MA, November 1, 1996." 
These materials accompanied a conference presentation by Heath. 
The second briefing paper is by Heath and Roach: "The Arts in 
the Nonschool Hours: Strategic opportunities for meeting the 
education, civic learning, and job-training goals of America's 
youth," March 2, 1998. This paper was distributed in conjunction 
with a report to the President's Committee on the Arts and the 
Humanities, Washington, D. C. by Heath and Roach. 

Arts organizations turned out to offer funders 
and policymakers unique challenges and to provide 
fertile contexts for cognitive and linguistic develop- 
ment not available elsewhere for most adolescents. 
These findings came as a surprise seven years into a 
decade of this research on community organizations 
engaging young people in activities ranging from 
urban planning to poetry. The scholars carrying out 
this study were not arts educators or advocates, but 
social scientists working to understand learning and 
language development and organizational environ- 
ments that enhance these for young people likely to be 
labeled "at-risk" in their schools. 


This comment comes from an adult leader of 
one of these environments. This simple idea contains 
the essence of what we learned: contexts of learning 
matter greatly. But what goes into creating and 
sustaining these? 

When institutions of society become overbur- 
dened and unable to adapt to changes in patterns of 
human behavior, new institutions need to emerge. 
Today, the sweep of new advances in technology, 
communication, and enterprise has shifted radically 
the rhythms and structure of daily American life. 
While frequently overlooked, young people often are 
the ones who feel these changes most significantly. 
Traditional institutions of school, family, and church, 
assumed to take responsibility for the positive 
development of young people, can no longer meet the 
full needs of today's children and youth between the 
ages of 8 and 18. An "institutional gap" exists, and it 
affects our youth. 

Highlighting this gap, the Carnegie Corporation's 
1992 report, A Matter of Time, shows that young 
people spend only about 26% of their time in school, 
and of their nonschool hours, they have discretion over 

2 All language data reported here in quotation marks was recorded 
by a member of the research team by audiorecording equipment, 
transcribed, and, in many cases, entered into a data base for 
analysis by a concordance program. 


about 40-50% of that time. When parents and teachers 
cannot be with youngsters throughout the day to 
ensure their positive socialization, youth have to look 
to other places for their learning. And it's the nature of 
the places to which they go on their own time and of 
their own volition that shapes their growth in skills, 
ideas, and confidence. 

Creative youth-based nonschool organizations 
and enterprises that have sprung up in response to 
this "institutional gap" engage young people in 
productive activities during nonschool hours. Those 
fortunate enough to have such places in their neigh- 
borhood and choose to spend time there carry with 
them a sense of need, an awareness of pending danger 
for themselves and their friends, and often some 
inner sense that they have a knack for doing "some- 
thing more." Such places vary in structure and 
mission and range from well-established national 
affiliations such as Boys and Girls Clubs, parks and 
recreation programs, to an array of youth-initiated 
and grass-roots endeavors. Such organizations find 
homes in renovated warehouses, performing arts 
centers, railway yard buildings, and abandoned stores 
on dying main streets. 

Regardless of the buildings that house them or the 
particular focus they espouse, all of these organizations 
share a central guiding principle: they recognize young 
people as resources, not as problems. This means they 
value the talent and interests of young people as key 
players in the development of individuals and the 
group, as well as their larger communities. Rather than 
focus on prevention and detention for "at-risk" youth, 
these organizations urge creativity and invention with 
young people as competent risk-takers across a range of 
media and situations. 

Making Learning Visible 

But what actually takes place in these learning 
environments outside of schools to attract young people 
to sustained participation, performance and productions 
of high quality? It was this question that drew Shirley 
Brice Heath, linguistic anthropologist, and Milbrey 

McLaughlin, public policy analyst, of Stanford University 
to begin in 1987 a decade-long study that would bring 
answers, surprises, and hosts of new questions. Exemplary 
sampling across the nation located 124 youth-based 
organizations that young people of economically 
disadvantaged communities saw as places where they 
wanted to spend time and found learning a challenging 
risk they enjoyed. In other words, these were places young 
people judged as effective, from their point of view. From 
Massachusetts to Hawaii, in urban and rural sites, as well 
as mid-sized cities (25,000-100,000), these young people 
frequendy attended organizations whose activities 
centered in either athletic-academic groups, community 
service initiatives, or arts participation. 

Figure 1. Three Types of Youth-Based Organizations 

■ Athletic- Academic Focused — Youth partici- 
pate on sports teams that heavily integrate 
academic involvement on topics related to the 
sport being played. 

■ Community- Service Centered — Youth orient 
their activities toward specific ways of serving their 
communities — ecological, religious, economic. 

■ Arts- Based — Activities in the arts engage young 
people in a variety of media — visual, technical, 
musical, dramatic. All arts programs carry a strong 
component of community service, and many have 
since 1994 moved increasingly toward micro- 
enterprise in local neighborhoods. 

Young scholars trained as anthropologists fanned 
out to record the everyday life of these organizations, 
collecting data through observing and noting events 
from the beginning of planning for a season through its 
final cycle of evaluations. In addition, these researchers 
made audiorecordings of adults and young members as 
they went about practice, critique sessions, and celebra- 
tions. In 1994, a sample of youth organization members 
responded to the National Education Longitudinal 
Survey [hereafter NELS], so that those in nonschool 



activities could be compared on a host of features with a 
national sample of high school students. In addition, to 
further complement the research, the young anthropol- 
ogists trained small teams of local young people to work 
as junior ethnographers. They audio-recorded everyday 
language both within and outside the organizations, 
interviewed local residents and youth not linked to 
youth-based organizations, and supervised other young 
people in their keeping of daily logs and journals. 3 

As the evidence accumulated, it became clear that 
the ethos of these organizations and their easy inclusion 
of young people in responsible roles make rich environ- 
ments of challenge, practice, trial and error, and extraor- 
dinary expectations and achievements. An ethos that sees 
young people as resources cascades through organiza- 
tional structure as well as moments of hilarious play and 
concentrated work. These groups, like many organiza- 
tions in the adult world today, are less defined by their 
material surroundings than by their communications, 
linkages, and dynamism. Like start-up companies of the 
business world, their assets rest primarily in their people 
and not in buildings, grounds, and equipment. 

While numerous notions circulating today wrongly 
assume that young people only want to hang out and to 
have fun, youth in the organizations of this study 
emphasize the importance of "having something to do." 
They crave experience and productivity. Essential to 
successful organizations — and in line with youth 
interests — is the offer by these organizations of more 
than just a safe place to go after school. Young people 
expect to play many different roles, help make rules, and 
to be able to take risks by trying something new, taking 
inspiration from unexpected sources, and creating new 
combinations of materials, ideas, and people. 

Roles, rules, and risks — a rewrite of the 3 R's of the 
early twentieth-century ditty about schools — character- 
ize the places where young people want to be. As shown 
in Figure #2, the macrostructure or overarching 

For further explanation of the range of methods of data collection 
and analysis used in the study, see Heath & Langman, 1994; 

McLaughlin, Irby, & Langman, 1994. 

organizational frame of these learning environments 
derives from the ethos that the diverse talents and 
energies young people bring to the organization to 
make it what it is and can be. Adult leaders freely admit 
that "if kids walk away from this place and stop wanting 
to come here and work, nothing we adults can do by 
ourselves will keep these doors open." The operational 
frame distributes functions and roles throughout, and 
yet marked transitions link to growing responsibilities 
and commitment by each young person to long-term 
projects or performances of the group. Young people 
take part as board members, receptionists, junior 
coaches, clean-up crew, and celebration planners. The 
longer they stay in the organization, the more they get 
to do — the wider the arc of their responsibilities and 
roles. Group goals make clear the transformative effects 
of hard work, creative collaborative work and critique, 
and achievement in the face of skepticism about the 
abilities of young people from communities lacking in 
economic viability and professional role models. 

Almost without exception, all these organizations 
have fragile grips on their future existence. Until the 
early 1990s, survival depended exclusively on grants, 
individual and corporate donors, and the rare endow- 
ment. But by 1994, young people in more and more 
organizations began to put their talents and energies to 
work to enlist civic groups, appropriate business clients, 
and social service agencies as clients. Tumbling teams 
become half-time entertainment for professional 
basketball games and neighborhood block parties; 
conservation groups hire out to build park benches and 
design signs identifying and describing local flora and 
fauna; drama groups provide workshops for juvenile 
detention centers. Funding contingencies provide just 
one of the ways young people meet all the unpredicta- 
bles of their group. The norm is "be ready for any- 
thing" — canceled contracts, van breakdowns on a 
critical day, break-ins and robberies at the site, and the 
inevitable emotional and social issues that arise. Older 
youth bear special responsibilities to young members at 
times like these, and since most of these groups include 
students who may range in age from eight to eighteen, 


Figure 2. Macrostructural vs Microstructural Features 

youth as resources transitions through responsibility transformative through 
at work in safe places to long-term project/performance predictably dealing with 

conditional ity 

Macrostructural features 




gestures, costume, hypothetical, affirmative, playful, combinatorial 

place in space, questioning, repetitive, practiced & novice-to-expert 

expressive means task distribution 

Microstructural features 

long-term and older members have to be strong role 
models for one another and for younger members. 

Adults in these organizations do not expect the 
young just to face and solve problems. They ensure 
that members get lots of practice in looking ahead and 
figuring out just where problems might arise down the 
road. "Let's think about what could happen" domi- 
nates considerations of these groups, especially as end 
of season, task completion, or openings of showings 
or performances draw near. 

Microstructural, or daily interacted, features work 
through roles, rules, and risks, and show up in the 
behaviors of young members. These link in multiple 
ways to macro features, because all occur under a 
shared umbrella of understanding of "what this place 
(or group, or practice. . . ) is about." At the microstruc- 
tural level, visual or marked aspects of membership 
include special gestures (greetings, congratulatory 
signals), specific costumes (shirts, caps, and jackets 
with logos), particular places within the space of the 

Figure 3. Expectations of Youth in Effective Organizations 




Individuals bring diverse talents, skills, knowledge, 
and networks vital to the life of the group. 

Everyone has to be ready to pick up the slack, to 
play different roles, and to be a responsible critic of 
the group's work or performance. 

A season means from start to finish, from plans and 
preparation to practice, performance, and evaluation. 

Practice, practice, practice goes along with the need 
to keep asking, first of the self and then of others, 
"how's it going? What do you think?" 

No one learns or does anything for just the 
individual; expect to pass what you know and can 
do on to others through teaching, mentoring, 
modeling, encouraging. 

Adults and youth alike have to be prepared to 
suspend disbelief, deal with intense emotions, and 
explore vulnerabilities. 

Everyone expects the unrelenting accountability 
that comes from authentic audiences, outsiders to 
the organization. 

organization, and high value on several means of 
expression (dance, visual arts, logos, etc.). Verbal 
interactions are marked by a heavy use of hypotheti- 
cals, affirmations, questions, specific names, playful 
routines, and wide range of both oral and written 
genres. Performative play and humor emphasize much 
of what goes on within the groups — special messages 
left on computers, unique drum roll for the perennially 
late young actor, and highly creative song lyrics. 

These seemingly simple features of everyday life 
in these organizations translate into group expecta- 
tions sitting within a climate of can-do, no matter 
what happens. While at first glance these features may 
make youth organizations sound harsh and full of 
stress-filled hours, they are instead high-quality and 
high-stakes learning environments that recognize the 
creative capacities of youth. Figure #3 provides a 
summary of the expectations that organizational 
leaders in these sites surround with a sense of safety 
and predictability for the young. Rules are not great in 
number, but they matter, and they sound like common 
sense; "pick up after yourself"; "nobody gets hurt 
here"; "remember this place works because we work." 

The Surprise 

As the research team worked in these organiza- 
tions over the years and carried out more fine-grained 

analysis — particularly of the language young people 
and their adult leaders used, environments of arts 
organizations emerged as somewhat different from 
those of groups engaged primarily in community 
service or sports. In addition, the young people who 
belonged to arts programs exhibited more of certain 
attitudes and behaviors than those attending organiza- 
tions of other types. 

Presented here are quotations from young people 
and adult leaders in these arts groups that capture 
the climate of expectation and work in these creative 

"It changes your perception of the world." 

"You can say really important things in a piece of art." 

"You center yourself and things pour out." 

"When I'm actually doing my art, I feel like 
I'm in a different frame." 

"We keep pushing the envelope of what 
we're doing." 

Essential here is the combination of thinking, 
saying, and doing something important while being 
aware of the self and the group in these endeavors. 4 

4 For general discussion of contexts of arts organizations as rich 
linguistic and cognitive environments, see Heath, Soep, & Roach, 
1998. For greater detail on how arts coaches (as well as sports 
coaches) in these effective youth organizations talked with young 
people, see Heath & Langman, 1994. 



The language of youth arts organizations reveals 
that through planning and preparing the group 
projects to which individuals contribute, each member 
has available multiple opportunities to express ideas. 
Adult leaders start meetings early in the season with 
open challenges: "what kind of show do you want this 
year?" "we've got to figure out the program for this 
year — ideas, directions, special requests?" Adults 
remind youth members that there are some limits — 
budget, availability of performance or exhibition space, 
and the obligation to fill contracts already in place. 
Beyond these limits, imagination can take youth in the 
arts to almost any place or project they dream up. All 
that is needed — and adults are quick to remind young 
people of this — is young people's willingness to work 
to make their ideas happen. When an organization 
committed primarily to the visual arts decides to add a 
play to the opening night of their gallery exhibition, 
the only boundaries come from limited time. Any work 
on a play has to take time away from producing their 
individual pieces and fulfilling contracts for group 
projects. Some version of "We give them room to fail as 
well as to succeed" comes up often in adult leaders' talk 
about how they work with young people. 

Questions and challenges fill not only initial group 
planning sessions, but follow-up in one-to-one and 
small-group interactions. The arts director of a theatre 
group asks performers to choose a leader and then to 
work in groups of three for half an hour to develop a 
scene from a piece of writing taken out of the journal of 
one member. The chosen leader of the three focuses the 
group on making a choice quickly and then guides talk 
toward scene development in the allotted time. A dance 
troupe struggles in the first week to decide on a theme, 
working in small groups to develop ideas and rationales 
to present to the other groups for selection. In all cases, 
young artists work against the immovable deadline of 
performance and product development, knowing that in 
the final analysis, their work will be judged by outside 
authentic audiences of friends and family, to be sure, but 
also clients, critics, and could-be fans and supporters 
convinced only by the merits of the work of art. 

Plans in these organizations come from and with 
young people rather than for them. At the minute-to- 
minute level, this means that young people get lots of 
practice in developing future scenarios, explaining 
ideas, arguing for a particular tactic, and articulating 
strategies. 5 They talk about "what if?" "what about...?" 
"could we try this?" "let's try. ..." They throw out 
imaginative situations for others in the group to 
consider: "in that part, if Maria moves to the side and 
the spot is on her, the drummers step back, then 
Antonio can come on from the dark side of the stage 
before lights go back up." They pepper their sentences 
with "could," "will," "can," — asserting possibility. They 
preface suggestions with subject-verb phrases that 
attribute responsibility to their own mental work: "I 
wonder," "I came up with this crazy idea. . .," "I see this 
going some other way." 

Such talk can slip past the casual listener as 
nothing special. However, in arts organizations, the 
frequency of "what if?" questions, modal verbs (such 
as could), and mental state verbs (such as believe, 
plan), as well as complexity of hypothetical proposals, 
amounts to lots of practice. Young members talk and 
talk in their planning, during practice, around 
critique. This abundance and intensity of practice for 
these types of language uses is rarely available to them 
in any other setting. 

The institutional gap noted at the outset of this 
paper means that older children and adolescents 
have relatively few occasions to work in a sustained 
way to plan and carry out a project with an adult or 
guiding expert. Junior ethnographers working with the 
research team recorded patterns of ordinary language 

The art of planning and the care that must go into different phases 
and types of plans receives almost no direct instruction in formal 
educational institutions. Yet since 1991 the world of business has 
given increased attention to "the art of the long view" (Schwartz, 
1991). Notions such as "unintended consequences" and the "long 
shadow of small decisions" have become commonplace within 
frameworks for successful personal and organizational existence, as 
a result of the tightening of the webs of connection (Mulgan, 
1997). The small but very real world of youth organizations offers a 
laboratory for using and exploring the kinds of language and 
thinking that make these concepts familiar to students. 






interactions of young people in their nonschool hours 
outside youth-based organizations. The findings 
revealed that for students who did not attend orga- 
nized nonschool activities and were not extensively 
involved in extracurricular activities at school, each 
week offered them at best only 15-20 minutes of 
interaction with adults in sustained conversation 
(defined here as at least 7 minutes in duration) on a 
single topic that included planning. 6 The youth not 
involved in nonschool activities received almost no 
practice in talking through future plans, developing 
ideas for execution, or assessing next steps from a 
current situation. 

Whereas family members and neighbors in earlier 
years worked shoulder to shoulder with the young, 
whether in the kitchen, garden, local boat harbor, or 
porch addition, current job demands — for adults and 
young people — make unlikely these extended periods 
of joint work at a relaxed pace. Leisure hours, when 
they occur, go to bodily exercise, spectator sports, 
travel, or chores piled up because of long working 
hours, illness, or crises. Young people across all 
socioeconomic classes have almost no time with adults 
to hear and use forms of language critical for acade- 
mic performance and personal maturation. Decision- 
making, thinking ahead, and building strategies make 
up most of what adults have to do in their everyday 
lives. But facility in these does not come easily. Most 
certainly, the linguistic competence necessary to talk 
oneself through tough situations cannot develop 
without hearing such language modeled. 

Young people in arts-based organizations gain 
practice in thinking and talking as adults. They play 
important roles in their organizations; they have 
control over centering themselves and working for 
group excellence in achievement. Their joint work 

6 These findings echo those of Csikszentimihalyi & Larson, 1984 
and numerous other scholars who have shown that as older 
children move into the teenage years, they spend less time with 
family and more with peers. Key, of course, to the time spent 
talking with family members is content of that talk; see Ochs, 
Taylor, Rudolph, & Smith, 1992. 

with adults and peers rides on conversations that test 
and develop ideas, explicate processes, and build 
scenarios of the future. 

They get to play across a scale of adapted voices, 
strategic planning, and thoughtful listening. 

"I find my inspiration from other performers." 

"We give a lot of advice to each other." 

"It comes down to taking the time to listen to the other 
person-just giving it a chance and trying it out." 

These comments from youth members in arts- 
based community organizations refer to critique — a 
process that takes place primarily during the practice 
and evaluation phases of the cycle of each season of arts 
production or performance. Critique, the reciprocal 
give-and-take learning of assessing work to improve the 
outcome, occurs daily in youth-based organizations 
(Soep, 1996). Professional artists, as well as older youth 
members, give younger artists specific feedback about 
techniques to be practiced and developed, and they ask 
questions to help them focus the meaning of their 
work. The high risk embedded in the performances and 
exhibitions of these organizations creates an atmos- 
phere in which students know how to solicit support, 
challenge themselves and others, and share work and 
resources whenever possible. Critique, as an improvisa- 
tional and reciprocal process, amplifies practice gained 
during project planning in using hypothetical state- 
ments ("if you put this color on today, then can it dry 
enough by Friday to start the next color?"). 

In addition to the risk of sharing work with peers, 
the constant anticipation of a critical audience infuses 
life at these organizations with an orientation toward the 
uncertainty of public reaction. Young people have to face 
the possibility that something can "go wrong," or viewers 
will not "get the point." These fears motivate perpetual 
self-monitoring of process and refinement of product. 
Risk also operates at the level of the organization and its 
survival through the contingencies of an uneven climate 
of financial and popular support. Through their many 
roles at effective arts sites, youth participate actively in 
efforts to guarantee that the organization will continue 


not only for them, but for their younger counterparts as 
well. Far from a liability, this confluence of risk heightens 
learning at effective youth-based arts organization. While 
public rhetoric laments the fate of "at-risk youth," our 
research reveals how youth depend on certain kinds of 
risk for development. Rather than live at its mercy, youth 
in arts organizations use the predictability of risks in the 
arts to intensify the quality of their interactions, prod- 
ucts, and performances. 

As the group moves through its work toward 
meeting deadline, they give one another advice as well 
as work with the professional artists that instruct and 
guide in their organizations. They look, listen, take 
notes, compare pieces or scenes, and critique. They ask 
others to think about their work in specific ways: "does 
this work here?" "what's not right here— something's 
bothering me." The answers of others model good 
material for similar internal questions and answers of 
the self; the poet learns to ask herself, "What is it I really 
want to say?" She also frames answers to herself on the 
basis of those she has heard in critique sessions. Males 
and females alike report the critique sessions as highly 
important to enable them to know how to raise and 
address serious questions and how to reframe queries 
to help young artists see in their work something they 
cannot see on their own. 

One young artist who moved on successfully to 
architecture school reflected on the youth-based arts 
organization that he had helped establish when he was 
in the eighth grade. "The place enabled me to put 
together a capable portfolio," he said, "to get accepted at 
a good institution, to make sure I had the tools to look 
at something and crit it by myself and say 'is that good 
enough? what's good and what's bad about it'?" 

Learning to monitor internally as well as to give 
advice to others builds from the group planning that 
begins each season throughout the full run of the cycle 
of work from start to finish. Reflecting back on a gallery 
show, workshop, dance recital, or cut for a compact disc 
at the end of the season allows long-term assessment. 
Members ask not just how the event went, but how they 
worked together, where and how is it that a particular 

"snag" happened, and whether better planning could 
have avoided the embarrassment it brought the group. 

The influences of participation in the arts on 
language show up in the dramatic increase in syntactic 
complexity, hypothetical reasoning, and questioning 
approaches taken up by young people within four-to- 
six weeks of their entry into the arts organization. 
During this period of time, they will move from 
planning and preparation into intensive practice and 
pending deadline. Initial data analysis from the approx- 
imately 750,000 words transcribed from arts-based 
youth organizations (from the full corpus of one 
million and a half words for all youth-based organiza- 
tions in the study) shows the following generalized 
patterns for arts groups: 

■ a five-fold increase in use of if-then statements, 
scenario building following by what if questions, 
and how about prompts 

■ more than a two-fold increase in use of mental 
state verbs (consider, understand, etc.) 

■ a doubling in the number of modal verbs 
(could, might, etc.) 

These linguistic skills enable planning, demon- 
strate young people's ability to show they are thinking, 
and also help them have the language to work together 
with firm resolution and a respectful manner. Perhaps 
most important, these uses of particular structures get 
internalized, as hundreds of pages of journals devoted 
to ways their work as artists come up for them during 
the day when they are in other parts of their lives 
attest. Young artists report hearing a melody on the 
radio, seeing a billboard design, or witnessing a fight 
on the subway; all the while, they report that they can 
be thinking about transforming these moments into 
their own art. 

Strategy-building is the best way of capturing the 
sum total of all the talk about planning, preparing, 
and "using your head." Figure #4 summarizes some of 
these through examples of how language works in the 
arts. This figure shows how young people develop the 

Figure 4. Strategies for Learners 



theory-building and predicting — "what do you 
think will happen if. ..?" "we could think of this in 
three dimensional terms, couldn't we?" 

translating and transforming — "think about your 
favorite rap group — how do they use metaphors?" 

creating analogies — "okay, so what's this? I mean 
can you tell me how what I'm doing is getting at 
something else" (demonstrating a short sequence 
of movements that suggests a furtive stranger) 

reflecting and projecting — "write about how 
you think you did today and don't forget to put 

down your ideas for the dance program — we gotta 
get this thing settled." 

demonstrating, explaining, negotiating — 

"hold it right there. Do that again, Tracy. Now 
what did you see, Rad?" [he explains] "Is that 
right, Tracy, is that how you did it? Tell him." 

displaying (trial and error) and assessing — 

"don't forget this performance is only six weeks 
off and those kids in the Parks program (the 
audience for the program) can be plenty mean; 
they're squirmy." 

language uses to move them beyond using simply 
their own experiences or opinions as basis of argu- 
mentative or declarative discourse. The highly 
frequent oral exchanges between youth and older 
peers and adults around problem posing and hypo- 
thetical reasons lead these youth in arts organizations 
to consider multiple ways of doing and being in their 
artistic work and beyond. 

When we realize that students in theatre-based 
organizations of our research had in each practice 
session approximately six times as many opportuni- 
ties to speak more than one sentence as they might 
have in their English and Social Studies classrooms, it 
is no surprise that certain linguistic uses appear to 
become habit. 7 Evidence suggests that they reinforced 
these habits elsewhere. Figure #5 compares young 
people in arts organization of our study with students 
surveyed in NELS. This figure shows that youth in the 

This analysis was done by pulling sections of 3000 running lines 
from the language corpus of theatre groups of approximately 15 
young members and comparing these with reports on classroom 
language drawn from dissertation and published book appendices. 
It is important to note that most classrooms have more than 15 
students, and since many reports of classroom language do not 
indicate the total number of students, this comparison is rough at 
best. English and Social Studies were chosen as subjects, since 
these are classes most often dedicated to discussion of texts and 
events, as is practice for drama. See, for example, Tannock, 1998. 

arts-based organizations of our study use their 
discretionary time to build not only their language 
skills — through reading and interacting in groups 
with a focused activity, but also their specific talents 
in the arts through classes — either within school 
or outside. 

This choice of opportunities for what may be 
called "extra practice" goes along with the intensive 
authentic language practice young people receive in 
their arts groups. There students had nine times as 
many opportunities to write original text materials 
(not dictated notes) as their classroom counterparts. 
Also of particular note is the fact that adult leaders in 
arts groups issue in the early weeks of a season twenty- 
six questions per hour to members of the group and 
precede these by the name of either the individual, a 
small group (e.g. "Tony's group"), or the full group. As 
noted above, these are not questions to which the adult 
already knows the answer, but queries that prompt 
ideas, plans, and reactions: "Okay, Ramona, you're too 
quiet; what are you thinking?" Early in the season, such 
questions go most frequently to oldtimers among the 
group, but within a few weeks, every member can 
expect to be pulled into the talk necessary for planning 
and preparing before the group enters the heavy-duty 
practice or production phase of the season. 


Figure 5. Leisure Time Activities 




















R reads 
for pleasure 

R participates 
in youth groups 

R takes music, 
art, dance class 

R performs 
community service 


Effective arts-based youth organizations place 
strong emphasis on communication skills of many types 
and across an array of contexts and situations. Their 
adult leaders expect the youth to be able to engage in 
conversation in highly serious, reflective ways, and these 
leaders or drama or writing coaches make clear that 
young people should expect the same of all adults 
around the organization: "If she [a new professional 
artist] is not giving you the time you need, go talk to 
her, tell what you thinks wrong with the piece, and ask 
her advice. She'll talk to you — you may not want to hear 
what she says, but then have a conversation. It's OK to 
disagree with her!" For groups involved in seeking 
clients, such skills that form the basis of confidence and 
ease in talking with adult professionals can make the 
difference between losing or landing a contract. 

Involvement in the arts demands fluency and 
facility with varieties of oral performances, literacies, 
and media projections. Through the multiple roles 
suggested here, youth have to produce numerous types 
of writing as well as oral performances of organiza- 
tional genres. These genres, ranging from invitations 
and schedules to satires, book jackets, and vignettes, 
reveal the daily activities at arts-based youth organiza- 

tions as fundamentally intertextual. Young people can 
and do learn to talk through a set of plans and remain 
willing to go back to drafts to make their work better. 
But they also do much writing that is first-draft 
information-only: key terms, times of rehearsals, names 
of shows currently at local galleries, dates of future 
events, etc. Contrary to most situations they have faced 
as students, they also must write as a group: scripts for 
their own plays, press releases, program content, and 
thank-you letters to flinders. They listen to adults' 
reports of events in civic affairs or at the state level that 
may affect them, and they often draft responses on 
public issues that may affect them, such as curfews that 
could eliminate late-night practices or rehearsals. 

Through their involvement in effective youth-based 
arts organizations, young people cultivate talents and 
dispositions they bring into their voluntary association 
with such high-demand high-risk places. Once there, 
the intensity of these groups builds and sustains a host 
of skills and capacities rooted in their personal recogni- 
tion of themselves as competent, creative, and produc- 
tive individuals. Figure #6 indicates the extent of what 
may be called their "self-esteem" as compared with the 
students surveyed in NELS. This figure is especially 


■Ilk I 


Figure 6. Perception of Self 


R feels good 
about him/herself 

R feels s/he is a 
person of worth 

R able to do things 
as well as others 

On the whole, 
R is satisfied with self 

□ NELs88 H ARTS 

significant when we compare the factors of home 
atmosphere for NELS students and those in arts 
organizations. The latter were about twice as likely as 
the NELS students to be undergoing situations that 
often contribute to feelings of uncertainty and insecu- 
rity, such as frequent moves, parent losing or starting a 
job, parental relationship change, or going on or off 
welfare. Arts organization students often talked and 
wrote in their journals about how their art enabled 
them to express pent-up feelings but also to get some 
distance by observing closely and taking the time to 
think and to listen. 

The Generative Capacity of The Arts: 

Group awareness of how their collective talents can 
add to the larger community comes along with individ- 
ual confidence and building of expertise. As one adult 
leader put it, "It starts with kids and then the adults 
come in"; this claim refers to the various roles that 
youth groups play for community enhancement — 
educationally, aesthetically, and economically. Within 
their own groups, they play roles as mentors for 
younger members; but when these organizations mount 
exhibitions, produce plays or musical concerts, or 

develop videos, their educational roles reach beyond 
their own organization. Within their own space or 
sometimes in rented gallery space, young visual artists 
mingle and talk with visitors. Most dramatic produc- 
tions are followed by conversations between young 
actors and audience members; the same is true for 
showings of videos made by media arts groups. Adults 
from their communities come to see what they have 
done, sometimes out of initial curiosity, for such events 
may be culturally unfamiliar to them, but more often 
out of a sense that this young person is doing some- 
thing they themselves cannot do. This sense of unfamil- 
iarity can deepen pride in parents, who often report 
never having had such opportunities themselves or 
never knowing that their child had such talents. 8 

It is difficult to calculate just how much in the way 
of education, entertainment, counseling, and community 

Our research did not involve collection of data from parents. 
Young people, however, often talked in interviews and general 
conversation within the arts groups about who would attend 
special events and why. Adult leaders also reported to us the broad 
enthusiasm parents and community friends of the young people 
had for seeing just what the group was doing. Several types of data 
suggest that parents of young people in these arts organizations 
had high aspirations for their children and also attended their 
school events. 

Figure 7. Youth Development With the Arts 

Marketing Model — Youth reflect artistry through 
an array of products and services that they can sell 
in their neighborhoods. In so doing, they recognize 
local resources and possibilities for social entrepre- 
neurship and community development. 

Tagging Model — Young artists see themselves as 
responsible and in instructive positions that build 
upon their creative artistic and communicative skills 
to develop similar skills in their younger cohorts. 

Positioning Model — Youth participate in appren- 
tice and intern programs that give them time to 
shadow others holding positions in a range of 
types of creative and artistic enterprises. 

Line Up Model — Youth advance into mainstream 
secondary and post-secondary institutions while 
also pursuing further enhancement of artistic 
talents for vocational or avocational development. 

service young people in arts organizations contribute 
annually. However, across the arts groups of our study, 
we provide these rough averages, which have to be 
interpreted with an awareness that groups in rural areas 
and mid-sized towns could not provide as many 
occasions because of lack of transport. In addition, some 
of the groups we studied manage to book more than 300 
performances during the school year in their state. The 
figures given here are averages of actual counts of types 
of activities each hour for one day a week and one 
weekend day from a sampling of young people in these 
organizations between 1994 and 1997. 

■ 800 hours, or 20 weeks, annually of teaching for 
younger peers 

■ 164 hours annually of positive public entertain- 
ment suitable for families and young children 

■ 296 hours annually of counseling and mentoring 
with their younger peers 

■ 380 hours annually of free public service in 
media production, performance, and community 

A key outcome for youth engaged with the arts is 
not just academic development, but also work oppor- 
tunity — the chance for youth to apply skills, tech- 
niques, and habits of mind through employment in 
arts and/or community-related fields. Figure #7 
summarizes the major ways in which youth arts 

organizations enabled authentic work opportunities 
that extended learning for students. 

In all these models, individuals had to put to 
work not only what are classically considered acade- 
mic skills, but also interpersonal, judgmental, and 
communicational abilities. In addition, they had to 
have a level of technical competence that matched the 
task at hand. Especially high-stakes learning environ- 
ments center for an increasing number of arts organi- 
zations around social entrepreneurship efforts placing 
the arts at the center of personal and neighborhood- 
based economic development. Producing graphics for 
local businesses, obtaining paid contracts for a 
performance series, opening a theater in an under- 
served area, setting up a micro-enterprise incubator 
for arts-related shops and projects — these exemplify 
how the arts at youth-based organizations draw on 
and strengthen local human capital and aesthetic 
resources. 9 Hence, the positive learning environments 
of these groups hold significant value not only in 
developing youth (in terms of the cognitive, linguistic, 
and social capacities cultivated in young people 
involved in these organizations) but also in youth in 

A documentary video and accompanying resource guide, ArtShow, 
[available late 1999] illustrate four youth-based organizations, two 
rural and two urban, devoted to the arts. The two urban sites 
include a strong focus on economic opportunities that build the 
local community socially and culturally and enable the arts 
organization to pay young artists for their work. 



development (when the activities of these organiza- 
tions serve as vehicle for young people to participate 
in social enterprise and community reshaping). 
Learning occurs in the arts first at the individual level 
and then at that of the larger community. 

Artistic work often generates enterprise develop- 
ment and inspires entrepreneurial projects and 
planning. The process of re-creating old buildings, 
old ideas, forgotten traditions and connections 
becomes recreational, and leisure time and play then 
become the work of joy, dedication, commitment, and 
involvement. Further or advanced learning, these 
youth show us, need not be distant from one's 
community and local needs; its generative potential 
works most effectively as on-going habits of mind 
and connections between institutional resources and 
personal needs. Learning and working that enhance 
individual merits can generate community benefit 
and incentive; community initiatives, in turn, enable 
individuals to remain close to family and neighbor- 
hood as resourceful assets. 

It is a given at the end of the 1990s that most 16- 
19 year-olds work during some part of the year, many 
at fast-food establishments or in low-skill, low-wage 
jobs with little in the way of cognitive and linguistic 
demands. 10 Youth-based arts organizations often 
employ their young members, providing them not 
just with a job directed by adults, but with work that 
they have part in envisioning and initiating at the 
organization. The arts enable young people to 
develop independence — in thinking, creating, 
pursuing economic and social goals, and building 
their futures. Recent reports such as SCANS 2000 (see ) link arts education 
directly with economic realities, asserting that young 
people who learn the rigors of planning and produc- 
tion in the arts will be valuable employees in the idea- 

driven workplace of the future. 11 Furthermore, young 
people who have worked in the arts know how to 
strive for excellence and challenge themselves and 
their arts groups to improve, knowing that an 
audience or "customer" will be the ultimate judge of 
their work. Through an array of genres and commu- 
nication skills (both verbal and non-verbal), young 
people who have worked in the arts know how to 
create and perform, perceive and analyze, and 
understand cultural and historical concepts through 
an approach that integrates individual parts to a 
larger whole. 

Following young people over the course of our 
ten years of research reveals that most of the young 
who have left high school still remain linked to their 
former youth-based organization in one way or 
another, while they pursue multilinear paths of further 
learning. They have, for the most part, not chosen to 
exit from their communities, but to remain in some 
cases, to work with other young and to build resources 
in enterprise development. They tend to attend one or 
more local institutions of higher education and 
supplement this work with extra courses through their 
jobs, churches, neighborhood centers, or unions. 
Community colleges, technical arts schools, and 
private business colleges attract these young for 
specific purposes they develop and pursue. These 
varied trajectories reveal how working in and through 
aesthetic projects builds academic involvement which, 
in turn, connects to avenues of employment. 

What does all of this cost? 

To read these descriptions of life within highly 
effective arts organizations that are youth-based has to 
raise the issue of cost. Next steps with regard to young 
people come most frequently these days in terms of 
cost-benefit analyses directed toward solving the 

10 For extensive documentation of such work for young people, see 
Newman, 1999 and other publications of the Russell Sage 
Foundation that illustrate the extent to which adolescents need to 
work to provide what they feel they themselves need and to 
contribute to their families. 

1 ' Numerous popular books on business-corporate and entrepre- 
neurial-make this point. What is striking are the parallels between 
the recommendations of these works and the everyday events of 
effective youth-based organizations. For further comparison on 
these issues, see Heath, forthcoming. 

problems youth present: what will it take to deter 
criminal activity, stop teen pregnancy, reduce dropouts 
and truancy? Such analyses can come in multiple 
ways, and most sound sensationalist and exaggerated 
to the layperson. 

If we attempt to offer a cost-benefit analysis of the 
arts programs we have studied, we can do so in ways 
similar to the process by which school districts calculate 
per-pupil costs. But the truth is that these figures from 
organization to organization make little sense, because 
some groups engage young people daily, while others 
can do so only a few days a week. Some serve a dozen 
young people, while others work with 60-100. However, 
that said, the rough figures across all the types of arts 
groups add up to about $1000 per individual student 
per year, if the organization either owns the building or 
has a heavily subsidized rent and does not have to 
maintain the building from their budget. For those who 
pay either mortgages or market-value rent and must 
maintain the building, costs per student often run 
closer to $2000 per individual student. 12 


A wise young student in an arts program recently 
observed: in prose you try to tell everything that 
happened; in poetry you leave out things on purpose so 
that you can tell the truth. 13 It has not been possible 
here — even in prose — to portray all that goes on in the 
learning that happens through participation in the arts 

We reject the types of calculations based on young people as 
problems or likely criminals. Such projections, especially for youth 
"at-risk," assume such young people "go bad." Therefore it is 
necessary to look ahead to the total costs of youth services, court 
costs and related personnel expenditures (probation officers, social 
workers, etc), imprisonment costs, as well as teen pregnancy 
figures. Such a tactic leads to wild comparisons, generally in pursuit 
of convincing taxpayers they will "save" money on "these kids" if 
they help support designated causes. It is not uncommon for media 
reports to claim that "problem teenagers" may well be on a path 
that could cost "the public" $36,000-$ 100,000 annually per youth. 
These ways of calculating fit into the current societal yearning to 
blame and to control young people, even when hard statistical facts 
will not support such claims as "increased youth violence"; for 
extensive examination of these points, see Males 1996, 1999. 

This nugget of wisdom was passed on to Heath from Arnold April, 
Executive Director of the Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education. 

within youth organizations; neither is it possible to 
render in poetry the truth of its fullness. 

Community organizations that work effectively 
with youth successfully fill the "institutional gap" by 
providing young people with substantial learning and 
practice opportunities with adult professionals and 
older youth who serve as teachers and models. Such 
organizations create ample supplies, instruction, and 
structured exploration time for young people to know 
and to develop their talents as producers, spectators, 
and evaluators in one or more of the arts. This, in turn, 
enables young artists to develop the motivation, skills, 
and habits of mind necessary not only to contribute to 
solo and group projects while holding high standards of 
achievement for themselves and others, but also to 
sustain focus through sufficient practice to reach peak 
levels of proficiency and pride in being a member of a 
community-building organization. 

Effective youth arts organizations build strong pro- 
civic and pro-social values in young people, enhancing 
opportunities for youth to reshape the climate of their 
neighborhoods through local family entertainment, 
socialization for younger children, public service work, 
and promotion of the arts in their communities. 

With each passing year, American parents have put 
increasing effort into seeing that athletic team member- 
ship, participation in museum programs, and involve- 
ment in service learning are liberally reflected on 
college and employment applications. There is wide- 
spread agreement that the values and priorities of 
young people can be discerned in the ways they have 
organized their nonschool hours. If we ask employers 
what matters most in their choice of new employees, 
they respond "experience" and explain that for students 
and recent graduates, how they have chosen to spend 
their discretionary time tells much about what kind of 
employee they will be. 

The ability to collaborate, stick to pursuits, show 
discipline, be expressive, and sustain challenging team 
memberships transfers well to the multiple demands of 
the information-based projects and performances that 
mark American corporations and small-business 



entrepreneurships. The quality of family and civic life 
and the sustenance of religious organizations depend 
on individuals' abilities to balance personal freedom 
and interdependence, listening and responding, 
obligation and exploration. No one can deny the value 
of practice and opportunity for cultivating these 
abilities and the merits of experience in drama, dance, 
music, and the visual and media arts in community- 
based organizations. 

Such organizations, fashioned and sustained largely 
by youth and professional artists, should be acknowl- 
edged for their ability to expand, complement, and 
activate the learning provided by schools and families. 
These groups help fill the institutional gap. Needed 
most to multiply these organizations is broad recogni- 
tion of the importance of experience with the roles and 
risks of the arts for all children, not just those from 
affluent families with high aspirations for their off- 
spring. Widespread demonstration of successful 
organizations must also take place, along with profes- 
sional development opportunities in which adults and 
older youth examine processes of organizational 
learning and new avenues of funding nonprofits. 
Research and evaluation will have to accompany all 
these moves to help us be wise as we chart the future. 

In essence, both facts and imagination should 
guide us. If they do, it is just possible that what we 
learn and do will suggest new explanations of ways to 
achieve full individual and societal competence. The 
American poet, Wallace Stevens, once remarked "In the 
presence of extraordinary actuality, consciousness takes 
the place of imagination." What goes on through the 
arts for young people in highly effective learning 
environments of community organizations is just this 
kind of actuality Consciousness is called for. 


Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development. 1992. A Matter 
of Time: Risk and opportunity in the nonschool hours. New 
York: Carnegie Corporation of New York. 

Csikszentimihalyi, M. & Larson, R. 1984. Being Adolescent. 
New York: Basic Books. 

Heath, S. B. forthcoming. Making Learning Work. To appear 
in After School Matters. 1:1. 

Heath, S. B. & Langman, J. 1994. Shared Thinking and the 
Register of Coaching. In Sociolinguistic Perspectives on Register. 
D. Biber & E. Finegan, eds. New York: oxford University Press. 
Pp. 82-105. 

Heath, S. B., Soep, E., 8c Roach, A. 1998. Living the Arts 
through Language-Learning: A Report on community-based 
youth organizations. Americans for the Arts 2.7:1-20. 

Males, M. 1996. The Scapegoat Generation. Monroe, ME: 
Common Courage Press. 

Males, M. 1999. Framing Youth: 10 myths about the next 
generation. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press. 

McLaughlin, M. W., Irby, M, 8c Langman, J. 1994. Urban 
Sanctuaries: Neighborhood organizations in the lives and futures 
of inner-city youth. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 

Mulgan, G. 1997. Connexity: How to live in a connected world. 
Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press. 

Newman, K. S. 1999. No Shame in my Game: The working poor 
in the inner city. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. 

Ochs, E., Taylor, C, Rudolph, D. 8c Smith, R. 1992. 
Storytelling as a theory-building activity. Discourse Processes 

Schwartz, P. 1991. The Art of the Long View: Planning for the 
future in an uncertain world. New York: Doubleday. 

Soep, E. 1996. An Art in Itself: Youth development through 
critique. New Designs for Youth Development. Fall, 1996: 42-46. 

Tannock, S. 1998. Noisy Talk: Conversation and collaboration 
in a youth writing group. In Kids Talk: Strategic language use 
in later childhood. S. M. Hoyle 8c C. T. Adger, eds. New York: 
Oxford University Press. Pp 241-265. 

Learning In and Through the Arts: 

Curriculum Implications 




Center for Arts Education Research 

Teachers College, Columbia University 

July 1999 





"You are talking to someone who had very little to do 
with the arts before I came here. This has changed 
me enormously. I have an appreciation for the arts 
that I never had before. I have seen youngsters come 
through here who perhaps weren't as motivated, and 
I have seen them take off and fly because we pulled 
them into an art and opened up new avenues. I 
couldn 't work anymore in a school that wasn 't totally 
immersed in the arts." Middle School Principal 

Based on a study of over 2000 pupils attending 
public schools in grades 4-8, a group of 
researchers from Teachers College Columbia 
University, found significant relationships between rich 
in-school arts programs and creative, cognitive, and 
personal competencies needed for academic success. 

The study began by asking three inter-related 
questions: What is arts learning? Does it extend to 
learning in other school subjects? What conditions in 
schools support this learning? 

The researchers found that young people in 
"high-arts" groups performed better than those in 
"low-arts" groups on measures of creativity, fluency, 
originality, elaboration and resistance to closure — 
capacities central to arts learning. Pupils in arts- 
intensive settings were also strong in their abilities to 
express thoughts and ideas, exercise their imaginations 
and take risks in learning. In addition, they were 
described by their teachers as more cooperative and 
willing to display their learning publicly. 

In schools with high-arts provision, these compe- 
tencies and dispositions also emerged in other subject 
areas when particular tasks evoked them. In such 
schools, teachers of non-arts subjects, such as science, 
math, and language, frequently speak of what they see 
as the extended effects of arts learning on learning in 
their disciplines. They comment on abilities such as 
thinking creatively and flexibly, imagining ideas and 
problems from different perspectives, taking imagina- 
tive leaps, and layering one thought upon another as 
part of a process of problem solving. In arts-rich 

schools, pupils are also seen by their teachers as 
curious, able to express ideas and feelings in individ- 
ual ways, and not afraid to display their learning 
before their teachers, peers, and parents. 

These responses frame what is interpreted in this 
monograph as a dialectical relationship between the 
different subject disciplines. Learning advances in 
depth through the challenge of traveling back-and- 
forth across subject boundaries. 

The study found that the arts add the kind of 
richness and depth to learning and instruction that is 
critical to healthy development only in schools where 
arts provision is rich and continuous, administrators 
supportive, and teachers enlightened. The policy 
implications of this study are profound, particularly 
as they impinge upon in-school arts provision and 
teacher education. 

Methodology of the Study 

The Learning In and Through the Arts study was 
undertaken by the Center for Arts Education Research 
at Teachers College Columbia University and exam- 
ined the artistic experiences of over 2000 pupils in 
public elementary and middle schools. 1 The goals were 
to determine what cognitive, social, and personal skills 
are developed through arts learning, if these compe- 
tencies have a more general effect on learning, and 
what conditions in schools support this learning. 

We recognized at the outset that the practice of 
arts teaching in schools is extremely diverse. The arts 
are taught in a variety of ways and configurations and 
in the contexts of four disciplines — -visual arts, music, 
dance, and drama. Some programs in schools integrate 
the arts, while others integrate the arts within the 
general academic curriculum. Still others teach them 

Support for this study was provided by The GE Fund and The 
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Details of the 
procedures and analysis employed in this study can be found in 
Burton, Horowitz and Abeles (1999). Learning In and Through the 
Arts: Transfer and Higher Order Thinking. New York: Center for 
Arts Education Research, Teachers College, Columbia University. 
This report was prepared with the invaluable assistance of Barbara 
Salander, Research Associate of the Center. 


as separate disciplines. Moreover, the arts can be 
taught by three different kinds of instructors, each of 
whom brings divergent goals, practices, and concep- 
tions of arts learning. These are specialist teachers, 
general classroom teachers, and external arts providers 
such as artists and performers from cultural institu- 
tions. In light of this diversity we rejected a narrowly 
focused study of one program, art form, or behavioral 
outcome on the basis that such an approach would 
most likely be context specific and not reflective of a 
broad spectrum of learning. 

We thus designed a study to examine a broad 
spectrum of arts learning as it is played out within 
public schools and programs. We combined several 
standardized measures, with paper and pencil 
inventories, designed to elicit the responses and 
opinions of pupils and teachers. Specifically, we 
administered the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking, 
which measures creative thinking abilities. We also 
employed the Self- Description Questionnaire, which 
measures self-concept, and we administered the 
School-Level Environment Questionnaire as a tool for 
evaluating aspects of school climate, such as the way 
teachers and pupils interact. 2 Where standardized 
measures did not exist, or were inadequate, we 
designed and administered our own measures. 

According to the test author, the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking 
measures creative thinking abilities, defined as a constellation of 
generalized mental abilities commonly presumed to be brought into 
play in creative achievements (Torrance, Ball and Safter, 1992). 
Although this test has been criticized in recent years for overly 
emphasizing fluency and not considering the intrinsic, personal 
meaning and value of creative thought, the researchers selected it 
because it has remained the most widely used yardstick for 
measuring the creative impact of arts learning. Other advantages are 
that it is relatively easy to administer and is normed for different age 

The Self-Description Questionnaire (SDQ-I) is based on a 
hierarchical model of self-concept developed by Shavelson 
(Shavelson, Hubner, and Stanton, 1976) and provides data on three 
areas of academic self-concept: reading, mathematics, and general- 
school (Marsh, Byrne, and Shavelson, 1988). 

The School-Level Environment Questionnaire (SLEQ) was selected 
to measure factors associated with school climate. Several of these 
dimensions approximated potential outcomes of arts programming 
derived from our interview data, such as changes in teacher practice 
and teacher-student relationships (Rentoul, J. and Fraser, B. ]., 1983). 

Specifically, the research team developed a Teacher 
Perception Scale to measure teachers' judgments 
about qualities such as risk-taking and creativity on 
the part of individual children. The Classroom 
Teacher Arts Inventory assessed teachers' practices 
and attitudes regarding the arts, and the Student Arts 
Background Questionnaire determined how much in- 
school experience children had had with the arts. 3 

While these measures gave us a great deal of 
critical numerical data, we also sought to capture a 
more evocative picture of arts learning, to probe 
deeper meanings and to enlarge our understanding of 
the context in which the learning was taking place. 
Thus, we interviewed school administrators, general 
classroom, and specialist subject teachers in science, 
mathematics, and language. Over the two-year span of 
the research the team spent many hours in the schools 
talking with administrators, teachers, and children, 
observing classrooms, and attending a diverse range of 
performances and exhibitions. At team meetings we 
examined field notes, pupils' artwork, writing, and 
photo-documentation of in-school activities. 

Before the study began, we assumed that we 
could find research sites where arts experiences 
would be variable but consistent within schools. The 
number of arts subjects offered in the schools we 
observed ranged from none to three or four arts 
subjects. Depending on the particular situation, arts 
instruction was offered by specialist teachers, taught 
by classroom generalists, or provided by visiting 
artists and performers. 

The research team developed the Teacher Perception Scale (TPS) 
to measure classroom teachers' viewpoints of individual children 
within four dimensions (expression, risk-taking, creativity- 
imagination, and cooperative learning). These dimensions were 
based upon analysis of teacher interviews, and reflect potential 
outcomes of arts teaching not directly measured by our other 
quantitative instruments. The Classroom Teacher Arts Inventory 
(CTAI) contains scales measuring classroom and academic 
teachers' practice and comfort level with arts education. It 
examines the degree to which teachers believe they integrate the 
arts, collaborate with other arts providers, and whether they 
intentionally use arts as a tool to teach other subjects. In the 
Student Arts Background (SAB) questionnaire, children were 
asked to indicate the number of years they had received in-school 
arts instruction. 

„ __ 


We invited a broad cross section of arts educators 
to suggest elementary and middle schools that fit 
within one of five types reflecting this diversity of 
provision. By studying two schools from each type we 
believed we would be able to make comparisons 
among different approaches to arts teaching. We 
visited 28 of 150 nominated schools, often several 
times, and it quickly became apparent that schools 
did not fit easily into specific types. Instead, we found 
pockets of different kinds of arts instruction existing 
side by side in single schools, even across single grade 
levels. We found that children in many schools 
received unequal arts provision, sporadic teaching, 
and unevenly sequenced instruction. 

In light of this discovery, we concluded that the 
best approach would be to treat each school as a 
complex combination of types of arts provision within 
which we could track the experiences of individual 
groups of children. Thus, we rated each school in our 
study on three seven-point scales, identifying the 
degree to which they were arts integrated, arts-rich or 
employed external arts providers. 

We invited 18 schools to participate in a prelimi- 
nary data collection for the study. Twelve schools 
were selected for more extensive study, and four of 
them became sites for in-depth case studies. In all, we 
examined the artistic experiences of 2046 children in 
grades four, five, seven, and eight. They attended 
public schools in New York, Connecticut, Virginia, 
and South Carolina. 

The Arts and Creative Thinking Abilities 

We first examined our numerical data in order to 
see if there was a pattern to the kind of art experiences 
to which children were exposed in schools. We were 
particularly interested in how these experiences related 
to creative thinking abilities and to teachers' percep- 
tions of artistic capacities. We found that there were 
significant associations among these measures. In 
order to explore this finding more fully, we looked at 
the number of years children had received in-school 
arts instruction and the range of different arts they 

had studied during this time. These data were then 
assigned to either a high-arts exposure or low-arts 
exposure group. The high-arts group consists of the 
upper quartile of children based on the amount of in- 
school arts instruction they received. Similarly, the 
low-arts group consists the lower quartile of children. 
A typical 5th grader in the high-arts group might have 
received art and music instruction for at least three 
continuous years, as well as a full year each of drama 
and dance. A child in the low-arts group might have 
had one year or less of music and art, and no drama 
or dance instruction. 

As we compared the experiences of the children in 
the respective groups we saw immediately that the 
high-arts group consistently outscored the low-arts 
group on measures of creative thinking and teachers' 
perceptions of artistic capacities. (See Figure 1) 

More detailed analysis showed that youngsters 
included in the high-arts groups scored well on mea- 
sures of creativity, fluency, originality, elaboration, and 
resistance to closure. 4 In our many conversations and 
interviews with arts specialists, arts providers, and 
teachers of other subjects, we heard time and again how 
these same capacities are critical to arts learning as well 
as to other subject disciplines. In the arts, whether 
visual, music, dance, or drama, the ability to explore 
myriad ideas, envision and try out unusual and personal 
responses, consider objects, ideas, and experiences in 
detail, and be willing to keep thoughts open long 
enough to take imaginative leaps, are all important. 

Arts Involvement and General Competencies 

Young people included in the high-arts groups also 
scored more strongly in terms of academic teachers' 
perceptions of their general competencies. As shown in 
Figure 2, data reveal that youngsters in the high-arts 

4 Fluency represents the number of ideas or solutions that a person 
expresses when faced with a stimulus or problem. Originality refers 
to the unusual quality of responses, while elaboration is the 
imagination and exposition of detail. Resistance to closure represents 
the ability to keep open to new possibilities long enough to make the 
mental leap that makes possible original ideas. The creativity index is 
an overall creativity score (Torrance, Ball, and Safter, 1992). 

i^**-* ** ^ III*. H I k g-l k I 

Figure 1. Creative Thinking Abilities 


Creativity Index Fluency Originality Elaboration 

j High-Arts Group J Low-Arts Group 

Resistance to Closure 

group were stronger than those in low-arts groups in 
their ability to express their thoughts and ideas, exercise 
their imaginations, and take risks in their learning. 
Moreover, they were also more cooperative and showed 
a greater willingness to display their learning before a 
community of their peers and parents. 

Our interview and observation data offered a rich 
context for understanding these results. Teachers 

emphasized that young people involved in the arts were 
able to unify divergent thoughts and feelings within 
representational forms that make it possible for them to 
express their ideas in many different ways. Similarly, 
arts subjects provide frameworks of learning where it is 
permissible, and desirable, to take imaginative leaps and 
to envision new possibilities and probabilities. Above 
all, the arts are subjects where young people can take 

Figure 2: Arts Involvement and General Competencies 













Expression Risk Taking 

] High-Arts Group Q Low-Arts Group 




risks in their thinking as they try out new and unex- 
plored arenas of learning. 

We also speculated that the arts, by their very 
nature, require a great deal of collaboration and 
cooperation in their creation. Even the visual arts, 
usually thought of as solitary activities, can involve 
youngsters in collaborative enterprises such as 
painting murals and scenery, producing books, and 
organizing exhibitions. Pupils involved in arts learning 
come to know first-hand what it means to share and 
learn from each other. 

Unlike other school subjects, the arts present a 
public face to learning. Paintings can be seen, music 
heard, and dance and drama experienced by everyone. 
Learning in the arts inevitably involves some measure 
of willingness to perform or display publicly, to reveal 
accomplishments, to garner appreciation, and to learn 
from the critiques of others. 

Arts Involvement and Perceptions of Self as Learner 

The data revealed some interesting differences in 
the children's own perceptions of themselves as 
learners. High-arts youngsters were far more likely 
than their low-arts counterparts to think of them- 

selves as competent in academics. They were also far 
more likely to believe that they did well in school in 
general, particularly in language and mathematics. 
(See Figure 3) 

As with other findings, these results were vali- 
dated by our observations of classrooms and in 
conversations with teachers and administrators. They 
confirmed that youngsters exposed to strong arts 
education acquire a sense of confidence in themselves 
that radiates beyond the studios and performance 
spaces. (See Figure 4) One might also speculate that 
the kind of persistence that it takes to be successful in 
the arts, particularly in the processes and organization 
required to represent thoughts and ideas, would have 
general cross-curriculum relevance. 

Arts Involvement and School Climate 

Administrators and teachers in high-arts schools 
attributed many positive features of their in-school 
climate to the arts. We found that schools with strong 
arts programs had supportive administrators who 
played a central role in ensuring the continuity and 
depth of provision. They encouraged teachers to take 
risks, learn new skills, and broaden their curriculum. 

Figure 3: Arts Involvement and Perceptions of Self as Learner 




General School 



] High-Arts Group j Low-Arts Group 


Figure 4: SDQ-I (Self-Concept) Scores Compared to 
The Number of Years of In-School Arts 

SDQ-I Scores 

High-Arts Group 

Low-Arts Group 

Physical Ability S-C 



Physical Appearance S-C 



Peer Relations S-C 



Parent Relations S-C 



General Self-Concept 



Reading S-C 



Mathematics S-C 



General School S-C 



Total Non-Academic S-C 



Total Academic S-C 



Total S-C 



Similarly, we found specialist arts teachers who were 
confident in their pedagogy and practice, knowledge- 
able about pupils' abilities and personalities, innovative 
in their approaches to learning, and who also enjoyed 
collaborating with other arts specialists and teachers of 
other subjects. 

The findings of our study show that children in 
arts-rich schools are more likely than children in low- 
arts schools to have good rapport with their teachers. 
(See Figure 5) In a similar vein, the results show that 
teachers in arts-rich schools demonstrate more 
interest in their work and are more likely to become 
involved in professional development experiences. 
These teachers work in schools that favor change and 
experimentation. They also are more likely to be 
innovative in their teaching. The data on teacher 
affiliation show that such teachers tend to have good 
working relationships with other teachers in their 
school. In the high-arts settings, we found consider- 
able flexibility in curriculum design, with less empha- 
sis on conformity, formalization, or centralization. 

Finally, it should be noted that when we exam- 
ined our school sample for socio-economic status, 
we discovered that the results of our study were more 
firmly tied to rich arts provision than to high 
economic status. 

A great deal of data came from our interviews with 
specialist teachers in language, science, and mathemat- 
ics, as well as from our observations in classrooms and 
attendance at exhibitions and performances. While 

Figure 5: Arts Involvement and School Climate 




Teacher Affiliation 

Student Support 

Professional Interest 

Innovative Teachers 

' High-Arts Group J Low-Arts Group 



some of these data came from conversations and visits 
to our preliminary 28 schools, most of it came from 
our case studies in the four schools where we spent 
continuous time. These data were carefully coded 
according to their frequency across the entire sample, 
across each school, and in terms of their quality. These 
findings allowed us to expand on, and in many cases, 
clarify the meaning of our quantitative findings. 

Specific Dimensions of Ability 

We found in schools with high-arts provision that 
teachers spoke of the effects of arts learning along five 
specific dimensions of ability. These were the ability to: 

■ Express ideas and feelings openly and thoughtfully; 

■ Form relationships among different items of 
experience and layer them in thinking through an 
idea or problem; 

■ Conceive or imagine different vantage points of an 
idea or problem and to work towards a resolution; 

■ Construct and organize thoughts and ideas into 
meaningful units or wholes; and 

■ Focus perception on an item or items of experi- 
ence, and sustain this focus over a period of time. 

Arts Competencies and Other Disciplines 

Taken together, our cumulative data offer a very 
evocative, complex, and multi-dimensional picture of 
arts learning. As we looked more closely at these data a 
consistent factor emerged, namely, that the appearance of 
arts competencies in other disciplines was found in 
contexts where, for example: 

■ There was a need for pupils to figure out or 
elaborate on ideas on their own; 

■ There was a need to structure and organize 
thinking in light of different kinds of experiences; 

■ Knowledge needed to be tested or demonstrated in 
new and original ways; and 

■ Learning involved task persistence, ownership, 
empathy, and collaboration with others. 

For instance, these competencies were called upon 
when a theory in science could be understood more 
fully through the construction of a three dimensional 
mobile; or when a mathematical problem could be 
approached more easily through a closely observed 
drawing of a shell; or when a Pythagorean theorem 
became clear through the creation of a drama con- 
fronting social class; or when a moral dilemma could be 
focused more fully through the creation of an opera. 

In subjects such as science, mathematics, and 
language, invitations to accommodate conflicting ideas, 
to formulate new and better ways of representing 
thoughts, and to take risks and leaps call forth a 
complex of cognitive and creative capacities. These 
capacities are typical of arts learning. Indeed, what is 
particularly interesting about this grouping of responses 
is that it reveals a rich interweaving of intuitive, practi- 
cal, and logical forms of thought at work advancing the 
range and depth of children's thinking. This kind of mix 
of intuitive and logical thinking is, of course, highly 
typical of most creative artists, scientists, and thinkers in 
general. At a more mundane level, it also characterizes 
how we deal with the challenges of everyday living! 

Relationship of Arts Learning to Other School 

A number of recent studies have investigated the 
effects of learning in the arts upon other subjects. 5 Not 
only have the results of these investigations been 
unclear but they have been much in dispute. On the 
one hand, it has been argued that learning in the arts is 
context bound, specific and important in and of itself. 6 
On the other hand, it has been suggested that learning 
in the arts is more general and plays a critical role in 
serving and supporting other disciplines. 7 Based on our 
findings we wish to offer another interpretation of the 
relationship between learning in the arts and in other 

5 See Catterall, 1998; Luftig, 1994; Moore and Caldwell, 1993; 
Redfield, 1990. 

6 See Eisner, 1998. 

7 See Perkins, 1994; Perkins, 1989. 


subjects. But first, we need to complete the picture of 
arts learning that emerged from our study. 

In essence, our study reveals that learning in the 
arts is complex and multi-dimensional. We found a set 
of cognitive competencies — including elaborative and 
creative thinking, fluency, originality, focused percep- 
tion, and imagination — which grouped to form 
constellations in particular instructional contexts. These 
contexts elicit the ability to take multiple perspectives, 
to layer relationships, and to construct and express 
meaning in unified forms of representation. 

In our study, we have come to call these competen- 
cies "habits of mind" rather than higher order thinking, 
as is more usual. We believe that this term captures 
more fully the flexible interweaving of intuitive, 
practical, and logical modes of thought that character- 
izes arts learning. 

These habits of mind are accompanied by an array 
of personal dispositions such as risk taking, task 
persistence, ownership of learning, and perceptions of 
academic accomplishment in school. Since these habits 
of mind and dispositions are prevalent in schools where 
children have studied the arts continuously over time 
and have experienced learning in several arts, we argue 
that they are typical of arts learning itself. 

As we have seen, this learning is not only character- 
istic of the arts but, in arts-rich schools, certain features 
of it are evident in other subject disciplines when 
specific task demands call them into being. Thus, we 
suggest that the relationship between arts learning and 
learning in other disciplines may not be as unidirec- 
tional — from the arts to other disciplines — as other 
studies have implied. Rather, the relationship may be 
more dynamic and interactive than is usually acknowl- 
edged. In other words we question whether transfer — 
or a one to one correspondence whereby one discipline 
serves another — is the only, or even an appropriate, way 
to conceptualize the relationship across disciplines. The 
unidirectional model is much too simplistic and ill 
serves the complexity of thinking involved in learning. 

We speculate that the presence of habits of mind 
that emerge in both arts learning and learning in other 

subjects consists of a dialectic involving the cumulative 
effects of participating disciplines. For instance, we 
observed a classroom where the study of Vietnamese art, 
music, and literature was combined with reading letters 
from soldiers who served in the war. This combination 
of learning activities created a context for a visit to the 
Vietnam War Memorial, and a subsequent discussion of 
the conflict between personal commitment, culture, and 
national loyalty, which unfolded in a group-authored 
play. In this example, the movement back-and-forth 
across disciplinary boundaries led to the accumulation 
of knowledge in a variety of disciplines. Even more 
importantly, however, it allowed for a measure of critical 
reflection on and within each discipline. What this 
example reveals is something akin to a continuous, 
ongoing conversation — a language exchange, in which 
reciprocity acts as a pre-requisite for new learning and 
the construction of meaning. 

When well grounded in the kind of learning we 
observed, the arts develop children's minds in powerful 
ways. In arts learning young people become adept at 
dealing with high levels of ambivalence and uncer- 
tainty, and they become accustomed to discovering 
internal coherence among conflicting experiences. 
Since young people live in worlds that present them 
with different beliefs, moralities, and cultures, schools 
should be the place where learning fosters the reconcil- 
iation of apparent differences. 

In arts-rich schools, where conversations take 
place across the disciplinary boundaries, young people 
learn that mathematics might challenge the arts to 
examine relationships among objects in ways that 
extend their conceptions of number. Similarly, in the 
back-and forth between science and art, pupils learn 
that close observation and investigation of natural 
phenomena can proceed either according to prescribed 
theories or according to personal perceptions — and 
that both types of investigations offer fresh under- 
standing of the same phenomena. The transmission of 
feelings and meaning captured in language learning 
offers a challenge to the arts to discover how such 
experiences assume new and different layers of 


£1 ^ isiiBlB1 ^ 


interpretation if encoded in images, movement, or 
musical sound. 

In such cross-disciplinary conversations involving 
the arts, young people are given permission to go 
beyond what they already know and to move towards 
new horizons for their learning. 

Educational Implications of the Study 

The results of our study offer empirical evidence 
that learning in arts-rich schools is complex and 
that it is most successful when supported by a rich, 
continuous, and sequenced curriculum. We also have 
clear empirical evidence that children, in what we have 
called the low-arts schools, are less able to extend their 
thinking. It appears that a narrowly conceived curricu- 
lum, in which the arts are either not offered or are 
offered in limited and sporadic amounts, exerts a 
negative effect on the development of critical cognitive 
competencies and personal dispositions. This conclu- 
sion brings to mind our original experience in 
choosing school sites for our study. In the many 
schools we visited, arts provision was almost uni- 
formly inconsistent and sporadic. 

Arts-rich schools offer a picture of a curriculum 
that is neither formalized nor centralized, but rather 
is open and flexible. Within these schools it was clear 
that teachers thought about, and accepted, a variety 
of different ways for pupils to be creative, to exercise 
skills and to think through problems, and exercise 
imagination in the construction of paintings, musical 
compositions, choreography, and plays. This suggests 
that a flexible curriculum which paces in-depth arts 
experiences to a sensitive appreciation of developmen- 
tal needs leads to learning that combines the kind of 
persistence and confidence necessary for academic 

Taking our cue from the arts- rich schools in this 
study, we might envision an ideal curriculum as one 
that offers in-depth, carefully sequenced teaching in 
several art forms for the entire span of young peoples' 
schooling. Teaching would be carried out by properly 
educated specialist teachers who are both committed 

to their own art forms and knowledgeable about the 
socio-cultural background and development of the 
young people they teach. An ideal curriculum would 
enable arts teachers to collaborate with each other, 
with teachers from other disciplines, and with visiting 
artists and other arts providers. This kind of curricu- 
lum requires careful planning. Teachers need the time 
to collaborate in disciplinary and cross-disciplinary 
groups in order to research and frame the learning to 
which they will contribute. They will also need 
administrative support in arranging the daily time- 
table so that pupils have long stretches of time in 
which to research and try out ideas and to stretch 
their thinking as far as it will go — both within and 
across disciplines. 

As part of this extended time for learning, pupils 
need to be able to use cultural institutions — art, 
science, and natural history museums, botanical 
gardens, concert halls, and so forth — much as they 
would use a library for research purposes. The arts- 
rich schools in our study were characterized by a 
flexibility, knowledge, and openness in the way that 
teachers planned and delivered instruction. One can 
only imagine what they might have accomplished, had 
they been able to restructure their school days in 
support of even greater expectations for learning. 

One unexpected outcome of our study under-cuts 
the debate about whether or not the arts are core or 
ancillary to learning across the curriculum. Our 
findings led us to the conclusion that, all things being 
equal, the arts are neither ancillary nor core but rather 
that they are participants in the development of critical 
ways of thinking and learning. In schools with rich arts 
provision this argument can be sustained on the basis 
of the constellation of capacities that are nurtured in 
arts learning and that characterize the dialectical 
relationship between the arts and other subjects. By 
contrast, in schools with a paucity of arts provision the 
arts may well be considered ancillary because they do 
not have the capacity to promote the ways of thinking 
that, by interacting dynamically with other subject 
domains, offer children generative and complex 


learning. If schools hope to offer a curriculum of study 
designed to help children develop as productive 
thinkers and citizens — and sometimes as artists — then 
they must not force them into narrow channels by 
depriving them of the kind of learning challenges that 
develop the richness of their minds. 

Policy Implications of the Study 

Given the findings presented here, schools should 
develop and offer to their pupils a critical mass of arts 
subjects in visual arts, music, dance, and drama. 
Within this provision young people must be allowed to 
study as fully as possible across the arts disciplines. 
Our results show very clearly that the habits of mind 
and personal dispositions needed for academic success 
were nurtured in high-arts schools where young people 
had pursued several arts over a duration of time. There 
was a negative correlation between schools with a 
paucity of arts instruction and all cognitive and 
personal dimensions of our study. Thus, schools 
interested in nurturing complex minds should provide 
a critical mass of arts instruction over the duration of 
young peoples' school lives. 

We need to stress that while arts learning is 
unique, in participation with other disciplines, it serves 
the cause of promoting the intellectual development of 
young people. The double face of arts learning — its 
simultaneous openness and closedness — gives it a 
special role in the curriculum. Educational policy, 
therefore, needs to bear in mind that in the best 
possible world neither arts learning nor learning in 
other subjects is sufficient unto itself. As is clear from 
our study, just because school subjects are different 
does not mean they are precluded from being able to 
work together beneficially. 

The Need for Well Educated Teachers 

This study found that teachers in the high-arts 
schools were more open, flexible, knowledgeable, and 
engaged in their own ongoing learning than were 
teachers in the low-arts schools. It seems clear that if 
we want to develop complex arts instruction, with all 

that it implies for pupils' learning and development, 
then we need a school arts policy that calls for a more 
rigorous and ongoing education for teachers. 

We need teachers who — through their own 
experiences in the arts — are complex, reflective 
thinkers and practitioners, knowledgeable about the 
young people they teach and the cultures that define 
them. Arts teachers need to be able to balance teaching 
both in and across their disciplines, which implies the 
ability to be collaborative and aware of possibilities for 
learning beyond their own specializations. 


Arts learning, involving as its does the construc- 
tion, interweaving, and interpretation of personal and 
socio-cultural meaning, calls upon a constellation of 
capacities and dispositions which are layered and 
unified in the construction of forms we call paintings, 
poems, musical compositions, and dances. Many of 
these same competencies and dispositions extend to 
other subject domains where they coalesce in equally 
distinctive forms — mathematical, scientific, linguis- 
tic — as pupils organize different kinds of meaning, 
insight, and understanding. 

What is critical is not that capacities and disposi- 
tions transfer from the arts to other subject areas, as 
has often been argued, but that they are exercised 
broadly across different knowledge domains. Given this 
interpretation, no subject has prior rights over any 
other subject, for to diminish one is to diminish the 
possibility and promise of them all. If the arts are to 
help define our path to the future, they need to be 
become curriculum partners with other subject 
disciplines in ways that will allow them to contribute 
their own distinctive richness and complexity to the 
learning process as a whole. 




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Perkins, D. N. (1994). The intelligent eye: Learning by looking at 
art. Santa Monica, CA: Getty Center for Education in the Arts. 

Perkins, D. N. 8c Salomon, G. (1989). Are cognitive skills 
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Redfield, D. L. (1990). Evaluating the broad educational 
impact of an arts education program: the case of the Music 
Center of Los Angeles County's artists-in-residence program. 
Los Angeles, Center for the Study of Evaluation, UCLA 
Graduate School of Education. 

Rentoul, J., & Fraser, B. J. (1983). Development of a School- 
Level Environment Questionnaire. The Journal of Educational 
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Shavelson, R. J., Hubner, J. J., 8c Stanton, G. C. (1976). Self- 
Concept: Validation of Construct Interpretations. Review of 
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Torrance, E.P., Ball, O.E. 8c Safter, H. T. (1992). Torrance tests of 
creative thinking: streamlined scoring guide tofiguralA and B. 
Bensenville, IL: Scholastic Testing Service. 

Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education 
Summary Evaluation 


Principal Investigator 


Coordinator and Field Researcher 

Imagination Project at UCLA Graduate School of Education & 
Information Studies Los Angeles, CA 90095-1521 1 




The Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education 
(CAPE), was founded in 1992 amidst a small 
upsurge of interest and funding availability for 
the arts in the Chicago Public Schools. The Chicago 
School Board had begun providing for a half-time art 
or music teacher in schools long accustomed to having 
none, and newfound flexibility in federal programs 
brought another half of an arts teaching position to 
many schools. 

With the support of Chicago foundations and 
corporations, including the MacArthur Foundation, the 
Chicago Community Trust, the Polk Bros. Foundation, 
and Marshall Fields Inc., CAPE sought to build on this 
important arts revival through the creation of a 
program that would bring local artists and arts agencies 
into partnerships with teachers at all grade levels. 
These teacher-artist partnerships were charged with 
planning integrated instruction, joining instruction in 
an art form such as painting or music with specific 
instructional goals in other academic subjects such as 
reading or science. Small clusters of schools were 
invited to apply for grants that would support stipends 
for artist participants and assist with the support of 
coordinators. Sixty-four partnership proposals were 
submitted, of which fourteen were funded for initial 
planning, and the program was launched. When fully 
implemented, CAPE involved twelve clusters containing 
37 schools and representing 53 professional arts 
organizations and 27 community organizations. Twenty 
schools remained active in the network throughout the 
six initial years of the program. 

Assessment in Multiple Chapters. With a grant 
from the GE Fund, CAPE made a substantial commit- 
ment to assessment stretching from the first planning 
period, comprising the 1993-94 school year, to what 
CAPE referred to then as its implementation years, 
particularly 1995-1998. The North Central Regional 
Laboratory (NCREL) contracted with CAPE to provide 

1 Also assisting with this evaluation were research assistants 
Rebecca Catterall, Karen DeMoss, Kevin Pease, Kelly Stokes, and 
Ted Williams. 

evaluation services throughout this time and has 
produced several interim reports and one final report. 2 
The Imagination Project at UCLA, under the direction 
of UCLA Professor James S. Catterall, was contracted 
to explore a specific set of evaluation-related questions 
during the 1998-99 school year. 

Synopsis. The purpose of this monograph is to 
highlight the development of CAPE and its effects 
through the multiple inquiry lenses trained on the 
program over its first six years. The story is one of 
development and learning by school communities, 
teachers, and artists as they became increasingly and 
more deeply involved in arts- integrated instruction. It is 
also a story of increasingly tangible and measurable 
effects on student learning as the program matured. 


The major phases of NCREL's evaluation work 
were: ( 1 ) exploring the planning years to see what 
activities were taking place, where things worked well, 
and where things seemed to need improvement, (2) 
gauging the impact of the program on artists, teachers, 
classrooms, and students during implementation, and 
(3) measuring support from school and community 
based groups. NCREL's data collection activities 
concluded in spring of 1998, and their final report was 
issued in spring of 1999. 

Both NCREL and the Imagination Project collected 
data on student achievement in reading and mathemat- 
ics. NCREL examined data from 1992 through 1998 on 
a national basic skills test, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, 
or ITBS. NCREL's analysis focused on the percentages 
of students performing at or above grade-level on tests 
administered between 1991 and 1998. The IP examined 
ITBS data and TAP test data from 1992 through 1998. 
The IP evaluation produced various comparisons 
between CAPE and non-CAPE schools, including high 

2 Our primary source for this information is "The Chicago Arts 
Partnership in Education, CAPE, A Comprehensive Summary of 
Evaluation Findings." Oak Brook, IL: NCREL. Matthew Hanson, 
Blase Masini, Allison Cronmeu/April, 1999. We do not emphasize 
in this 1999 summary NCREL's very early findings regarding 
CAPE's planning years, 1993 and 1994. 


poverty schools only (about three-fourths of all sample 
schools). The IP also analyzed scores from the Illinois 
Goals Assessment Program (IGAP) test, a set of exams 
recently constructed to reflect state standards in several 
subjects and grade levels. 

NCREL used large-scale surveys of teachers and 
students at particular junctures in an attempt to attain 
a generalizable portrait of the program and an overall 
view of CAPE classroom practices. The IP evaluation 
for 1998-99 was less concerned with generalizations 
about CAPE except in the case of student achievement 
effects. Rather than trying to produce descriptions of 
typical or average classroom practices, the IP study also 
focused attention on best integrated curricular practices 
by probing selected artist-teacher pairs, their class- 
rooms, and their integrated lessons. The CAPE Board 
was interested at this point in the art of the possible — 
when things went well, what did this look like, why did 
it work, and what were the effects? 


Following are an overview and some highlights of 
NCREL's evaluations of the various impacts of the 
Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education. NCREL 

3 Issued in April 1999 and referenced in footnote 1. 

reports four main categories of effects: impacts on the 
classroom, effects on teachers and artists, impact on 
students, and support from school and community- 
based groups. 

CAPE Impact on the Classroom. 

NCREL reports various impacts of CAPE on 
classrooms, the most important of which seems to 
come from its 1997-98 survey of teachers addressing 
instruction and curriculum. This was the last year of 
NCREL's evaluation and the most "mature" year of the 
CAPE program to come under NCREL's scrutiny. Here 
is what they reported: 

Extensive integration of CAPE into schools: More 
than 90 percent of teachers reported moderate (57%) 
or extensive (36%) integration of the CAPE program 
into their schools. 

Most teachers involved in developing arts- 
integrated units. Fifty-four percent of teachers reported 
having developed one integrated unit and 24 percent 
reported having created four to five units. A unit here 
means working with an artist to develop an instruc- 
tional sequence incorporating the art form with an 
academic teaching objective. The typical unit according 
to this survey was designed to last from four to six 
weeks. Seventy one percent of teachers in the 1998 

Figure 1. Proportion of Time Instruction Focused on Specific Areas of the Arts — Spring 1998 (N=107) 






Visual Arts 


Music Dance Other 

Source: NCREL 1999 Final CAPE Evaluation Report, p. 14 

*i M IT-lal 


NCREL survey reported teaching their units from one 
to three times. 

Which art disciplines are enlisted? The NCREL 
survey analyzed which art forms proved the most 
popular with teachers under CAPE. Figure 1 shows that 
the visual arts (painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics) 
clearly lead the way, with 41 percent of program 
teaching time devoted to these art forms. Theater 
attracts a quarter of all CAPE program instructional 
time, music 19 percent, and dance 9 percent. 

Which academic subjects are integrated? The 
teacher survey also provided estimates of which 
subjects teachers and artists chose to focus on for their 
interdisciplinary units. Reading proved most popular, 
followed by social studies. Science was less than 
moderately integrated in CAPE units, and mathemat- 
ics was least frequently chosen, as shown in Figure 2. 
(The numbers 1 through 4 in Figure 2 were assigned 
to calculate average levels of integration across 
responding teachers. The average scores are shown 
atop each column.) 

Teacher perceptions of school context. NCREL 
used district-wide teacher and student surveys to 
probe developments at CAPE schools. On teacher 
survey scales for school climate, quality of relation- 

ships with parents, professional development, instruc- 
tional practices, and relationships with the commu- 
nity, CAPE schools outscored non-CAPE schools in 
every case, although the differences were small and 
not statistically significant. We have seen similar 
patterns in other evaluation work and offer the 
following observation. When a school outperforms 
others on a long string of measures, the chances 
increase that some true differences exist. If the 
differences are attributed to random chance, as they 
are with statistical non-significance, the odds of five 
positive results in a row diminish to 1 in 64. Although 
we cannot say anything about which specific factors 
contribute to this difference , we conclude that these 
data show small differences in school context favoring 
CAPE schools. 

Impact on Teachers and Artists 

NCREL watched teachers and artists over four 
years through nearly all of their evaluation lenses: 
regular surveys, classroom observations, interviews, 
focus groups, document review, and case studies. 
The main reported CAPE impacts on teachers include 
the following: 

Figure 2. Arts Integration in Four Subject Areas According to CAPE Teachers and Artists — Spring 1998 (N=l 18) 

Very Integrated 

Moderately Integrated 3 

Somewhat Integrated 2 

Not Integrated 


Social Studies Science Math 

Source: NCREL 1999 Final CAPE Evaluation Report, p. 15. 


High levels of teacher-artist collaboration in both 
preparation and instruction. In the 1998 teacher 
survey, 91 percent of teachers claimed to engage in 
such collaboration. NCREL noted a significant shift 
from teachers teaching arts skills toward devoting 
increased time to integrating the arts with academics 
between 1995 and 1998. Artists consistently devoted 
about half their time to arts instruction and half their 
time to integration activities. 

Extensive buy-in by participating teachers. As we 
noted above when discussing impact on classrooms, 
there were very high levels of participation by CAPE 
teachers. Most created and implemented teaching 
units with participating artists, and most used them 
multiple times. Nearly a fourth of all CAPE teachers 
created 4 or 5 different units. 

CAPE professional development workshops. 
CAPE offered 11 workshops in 1997-98. On the one 
hand, teachers claimed that the professional develop- 
ment offerings were valuable; on the other hand, the 
typical teacher attended only one to three of the 1 1 
sessions. We do not have data from other years. The 
participation reported for 1997-98 points to the 
substantial time issues facing participating teachers. 
Among these issues was the fact that teachers and 
artists often work on quite different schedules. 
Another is that the job of teaching is very time 
demanding, especially when teachers devote after- 
school hours to extracurricular activities, evaluating 
homework and tests, and lesson planning. (These 
issues exist in the general context of the challenges to 
scheduling effective professional development in large 
urban school systems). 

Impact on Students 

NCREL reported student effects in three areas: 
Positive student attitudes about arts-integrated 
instruction. NCREL reported that, according to a 
student survey, students had generally positive opin- 
ions about arts-integrated instruction. When asked if 
they enjoyed lessons in the arts and if these lessons 
made learning fun, 94 percent of elementary school 

children, 50 percent of middle school youngsters, and 
86 percent of high school students answered yes. 

No differences in student motivation scales. The 
student survey allowed the construction of measures 
of student achievement motivation, including acade- 
mic engagement, liking school, self-efficacy, and press 
for academic achievement. While CAPE students 
slightly outscored non-CAPE students on all but the 
academic engagement scale, none of the differences 
were statistically significant. 

Emerging positive trends in ITBS Scores. NCREL 
compared the reading and math scores of 17 CAPE 
schools with a sample of 17 non-CAPE schools 
chosen to replicate the CAPE schools on measures of 
student demographics and past performance. Using 
the percentages of students scoring above grade level 
as an indicator, NCREL reported that the gap 
favoring CAPE schools began to widen during test 
years 1996 and 1997. The difference was not yet 
statistically significant. 

As discussed below, when 1998 data are included, 
the differences favoring CAPE in several important 
comparisons become significant for both the ITBS test 
and for the Illinois state IGAP test. 

Support from School and Community-Based Groups 

NCREL's main test of the degree to which CAPE 
was supported by school and community groups was a 
survey of artists and teachers conducted in 1997-98. 
Teachers and artists were asked to rate on a four-point 
scale how supportive of CAPE various institutions 
seemed to be. 

As seen in Figure 3, support for CAPE varied 
considerably depending on who is under considera- 
tion. School principals were considered highly 
supportive of CAPE. It is difficult to launch any 
initiative, much less one that aims at whole school 
change, if the principal is not supportive. The arts 
organizations are also highly supportive. This may be 
expected because CAPE brought work opportunities 
to the arts community, but these organizations would 
not remain supportive in the absence of a program 



Figure 3. Teachers' and Artists' Ratings of School and Community-Based Support for CAPE (N=125) 


Arts Organizations 

Community Organizations 


Non-arts Community 

Non-CAPE Teachers 



LSC indicates Local School Council 

that they felt was meaningful and well-run. CAPE 
seems to have garnered the blessings of community 
organizations. Local school site councils rank as 
supportive, though less so than the organizations just 
listed — perhaps because the councils have purview 
over many programs and constantly juggle competing 
demands of running a school. The non-arts commu- 
nity is seen as somewhat supportive of CAPE, with 
non-CAPE teachers ranking lowest among this group. 
This bears witness to the fact that CAPE did not take 
hold among all teachers in all schools. Some schools 
had high percentages of participating teachers, and 
some had many fewer. The IP evaluation reported 
below addresses this issue. 

NCREL's Conclusions 

NCREL reports made important observations over 
the five years of work and offered several recommenda- 
tions in their final report. Interim observations included: 

1 ) Positive changes in school climate resulted because 
of CAPE, based on school community surveys. 
Climate includes qualities such as principal 
leadership, focus on instruction, positive col- 
leagueship, and widespread participation in 
important decisions. 

2) Significant progress was seen in getting the support 
of school principals for CAPE. 

3) CAPE succeeded in getting teachers and artists to 
collaborate, with more success in co-planning than 
in truly co-teaching. 

4) Teachers believe that an arts integrated curricu- 
lum has learning, attitudinal, and social benefits 
for children. 

NCREL's final recommendations to CAPE included 
the following: 

1 ) Commit to arts integration as the mission of the 

2) Establish criteria for assessing the quality of arts 
integrated units. 

3) Establish a standards-based student assessment 
system. Determine what is to be learned and how 
what is learned should be measured and reported. 

4) Find ways that teachers and artists can have more 
time to plan and work together. 

5) Provide added resources to teachers. 

6) Maintain and enhance CAPE's position in school 
communities and their reform agendas. 



During the summer of 1998, members of the 
Imagination Project team, CAPE Director Arnold 
Aprill, CAPE staff and consultants, and the CAPE 
Board engaged in discussions and correspondence 
regarding high priority targets for another year of 
program assessment. The following areas became the 
1998-99 priorities: 

Student Outcomes 

1 ) Student Achievement. What can a finer examina- 
tion of test scores in CAPE and non-CAPE schools 
tell us about the possible impact of CAPE on 
student achievement? As part of this query, what 
did the newly available 1998 and 1999 test scores 
add to what NCREL had reported? 

2) Workplace and life skills. We asked teachers to 
report on students' development of certain skills 
and behaviors thought to be necessary for 
successful performance in the 21st Century 
work force. 


3) Nature of best practices. What do some of the best 
practices spawned by CAPE look like, and what 
makes them tick? Here we would turn our lenses 
to examples of integrated curricula through 
interviews, classroom observations, and review of 
lesson plans to find examples worth bringing to 
light. Nominated teachers and artists helped us 
with this question. 

Conditions for Growth 

4) What helps an arts-integrated curriculum grow 
within a school? What sort of contagion-by- 
enthusiasm was happening? How do artist-teacher 
relationships develop over time and under what 
conditions? What incentives work, and which do 
not? Teachers, artists, and large samples of school 

principals and CAPE coordinators were our 
sources of insight on this question. 


5) What school, partnership, community, or policy 
contexts tend to support or impede achieving the 
goals of CAPE? Here we were especially interested 
in school principals and partnership coordinators 
and their ability to encourage CAPE programs. 

We now turn to brief presentations of our analyses 
and results in each of the above areas. 

Student Achievement 

For the 1998-99 evaluation, we performed a total of 
52 test score analyses of CAPE and comparison schools. 

CAPE schools were compared to other Chicago 
Public schools in our analyses in a variety of ways. 
Some used all Chicago schools for comparison, and 
some used selected comparison schools. Some compar- 
isons enlisted all children, and others focused on high 
poverty schools. Other relevant background informa- 
tion included the following: 

1 ) We did comparisons at every tested grade level: 3, 
6,8,9, 10, and 11. 

2) Half of the comparisons involved all CAPE 
schools versus all Chicago Public Schools at these 
grade levels. 

3 ) Another half of the comparisons involved only 
high poverty schools (schools in which pupil free 
lunch qualification exceeds 75 percent). This had 
the effect of reducing school samples by about 

4) We also compared CAPE schools to a set of 
matched schools identified by NCREL. We did 
this for all CAPE and matched schools and also 
for the high poverty schools within this group. 

5) At grades 3 and 6, both the Iowa Test of Basic 
Skills (ITBS) and the Illinois Goals Assessment 
Program (IGAP) are given. At grade 8, only the 



IGAP; at grade 9, the Test of Achievement and 
Proficiency (TAP) is given. 

6) At grade 10, the IGAP is given; and at grade 11, 
the TAP. 

7) Each test typically reports percentages of students 
above norm (AB), and an average grade equivalent 
score (GE) or a raw score (RAW) that corresponds 
to the number of questions answered correctly. 

8) The final result is 52 separate comparisons, each 
showing a grade level, specific test, poverty level 
high or low, and two sets of comparative scores. 
The latter date from 1992 to 1998 (in the case of 
ITBS) or from 1993 to 1997 (in the case of IGAP, 
which began in 1993 and for which we did not 
have 1998 scores). 

The pages immediately following show three 
sample test score comparisons that are important to 
understanding how CAPE seems to impact student 
achievement in reading and mathematics. We note 
that in none of our 52 comparisons did non-CAPE 
schools out-perform CAPE schools. Thus, what is 
needed to show that CAPE is effective in raising 
student achievement, is evidence that the already 
existing gaps favoring CAPE schools increased over 
time. For making such judgements, in our more 
complete analyses in the full evaluation report, we 
identify three critical conditions: (1) Cases where the 
differences between CAPE and non-CAPE schools 
became more significant over time, (2) CASES where 
the CAPE advantage was larger in the implementation 
years than in the planning years, and (3) cases where 
CAPE schools have experienced performance growth 
since the planning years. 

A global assessment of CAPE student achievement 
effects. A very strong case can be made for CAPE 
program effects in reading and math at the 6th grade 
level, and a moderate case can be made for CAPE 
program effects in reading and math at the 3rd grade 
level. The middle and high school years consistently 
show test score improvements since the planning years, 

and the high school grades tend to show larger advan- 
tages for CAPE schools in the implementation years 
(post- 1995) than in the planning years (1993 and 1994). 

The small number of CAPE high schools prevents 
some dramatic gains from showing up as statistically 
significant, although gains such as those described in 
the example shown below seem meaningful. These 
differences are not as large or significant as those at 
the elementary level. 

Overall, we found 25 reading test comparisons out 
of 40 in grades K-8 where CAPE schools increased 
their lead over comparison schools and/or increased 
the significance of positive performance differences. 
For grades 9-11 in reading, the corresponding figure is 
7 out of 12 tests. The corresponding figures for 
mathematics were 16 out of 40 tests in K-8 and 8 out 
of 12 tests in 9-11 

We turn now to examples where CAPE impacts on 
achievement seem most substantial. 

Our first example is shown in Figure 4. This 
graph shows the percentage of 6th grade children in 
CAPE and all Chicago Public Schools performing at 
or above grade level in mathematics seven different 
years. Prior to CAPE, CPS schools averaged about 28 

Figure 4. CAPE vs. All Chicago Elementary Schools, 
Grade 6 ITBS Math, Percent above grade level, 1992-1998 





oo 40 


I ?n 










^ ~"" 






'94 '95 


'97 '98 


Figure 5. CAPE vs. Matched Elementary Schools, Grade 6 
ITBS Reading, Percent above grade level, 1992-1998 

percent at or above grade level: CAPE schools 
averaged about 40 percent. By 1998, more than 60 
percent of CAPE sixth graders were performing at 
grade level on the ITBS, while the remainder of the 
CPS schools averaged just over 40 percent. This gain 
is sizeable and significant. 

Our second example shown in Figure 5 displays 
similar figures for sixth grade reading. Here the 
comparison is to 29 selected comparison schools 
matched on a variety of things such as neighborhood, 
family income, and academic performance. The CAPE 
differential was as low as about 8 percentage points in 
favor of the CAPE schools in 1993. (This can be seen 
in Figure 5 as the difference between about 30 percent 
of non-Cape students at or above grade level in 1993 
versus about 38 percent of CAPE students at or above 
grade level in the same year.) The difference favoring 
CAPE schools grows to about 14 percentage points by 
1998. Note that all schools generally increased their 
performance on the ITBS sixth grade reading test 
over these years. 

Our final example is from the ninth grade TAP 
reading test, which reports average grade levels of 9th 
graders. Grade levels are routinely reported in years 
and months; for example an 8.5 grade level would 

mean the typical performance level expected of 8th 
graders in their fifth month of school, or in late 
January of the 8th grade. The comparison in Figure 6 
is between CAPE school 9th graders and 9th graders 
in all Chicago Public Schools. In Figure 6, it can be 
seen that while both groups of schools started out at 
low 8th grade levels and coincided at exactly the 8th 
grade level in about 1994-95, by 1998 CAPE high 
school ninth graders were averaging 9th grade fifth 
month performance in reading, while comparison 
schools were averaging a full grade level lower, 8th 
grade fifth month. 

The Test of Achievement and Proficiency, along 
with most districtwide and statewide standardized 
tests, is given in the spring — in the case of TAP, at 
about the 7th or 8th month of the 9th grade. This 
implies that neither the CAPE schools nor the com- 
parison schools showed average performance at grade 
level; but by 1998 the CAPE schools were much closer 
to grade level than the comparison schools and 
furthermore their students had shown considerably 
more improvement over the latest three years than 
other CPS ninth graders. 

Summing up achievement effects based on test 
scores. There appear to be strong and significant 

Figure 6. CAPE vs. All Chicago High Schools, Grade 9 
TAP Reading, average grade level, 1992-1998 

^^ ^.UW. 


achievement effects of CAPE at the elementary level 
and especially by sixth grade. In high school, there are 
positive gains for CAPE versus comparison schools 
that, while notable in size, they do not achieve 
statistical significance because of the small number of 
CAPE high schools. We did not discern achievement 
effects at the 8th grade level. 

Work Force and Life Skills. As another measure 
of CAPE impact on students, we asked teachers, 
artists, coordinators, and principals to appraise the 
degree to which integrated arts activities under CAPE 

contributed to a variety of skills frequently cited as 
important for adults in their work and personal lives.' 
We also asked classroom observers — watching both 
arts integrated lessons and non arts-integrated 
lessons — to make a note of the degree to which these 
skills seemed to be promoted in the lessons they 
watched. We used four-point scales — none, low, 

Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS 
Report). Washington D.C.: United States Government Printing 
Office, June 1991. 

Figure 7 Reported student growth in various skills, 



Non-integrated Lesson 

Integrated Lesson 


very high 

very high 


medium to high 


med to high 

med to high 



study plan use of resources 




medium to high 

team participation 


very high 

med to high 


work with diverse individuals 


med to high 





med or N/A 

high or N/A 



med or N/A 

high or N/A 



med or N/A 

med or N/A 


med to high 


med to high 

creative thinking 



med to high 

decision making 


med or N/A 

med to high or N/A 

seeing things in mind's eye 



med to high or N/A 



motivation to learn 



behavioral change for LEP stds 

med to high 


long term effects 


med to high 

change in teacher-student relationship 

med to high 

med to high 

change in student to student relationships 

med to high 


classroom discipline 


med to high 


medium, and high — in our surveys and observations. 
This is an admittedly rough test of these outcomes for 
children, but we seized the opportunity while inter- 
viewing and observing anyway. Figure 7 shows how 
our respondents saw developments in these areas: 

Arts integrated lessons contribute more to skills. 
Two patterns seem to stand out in these responses 
shown in Figure 7. One is that various participants in 
the process report beliefs that CAPE arts-integrated 
lessons are contributing to important skills — from 
speaking, to motivation, to decision-making — beyond 
what shows up on report cards or in standardized test 
scores. The second pattern is that the beliefs about 
non-integrated classes differ systematically from beliefs 
about arts-integrated classes. In nine out of twelve 
areas of skill development, participants report more 
direction and progress during CAPE lessons than 
during non-integrated lessons. 

We also found evidence of long term effects. For 
example, one participating teacher reported to us, "I 
had a dancer who worked with us in 2nd grade two 
years ago, and she actually ended up working with the 
fourth grade this year and [she found] that they were 
so much better able to move and to be creative and to 
think symbolically. ..They were much further along in 
the process than the other fourth grade class who 
hadn't had her as a dancer before." 

Our full report will have more to say about 
student outcomes; testimony that students in CAPE 
schools seem to see more around them, bring creativity 
to problem solving, and improve their focus and 
attitudes in the classroom. We also report the full array 
of test score comparisons. 

The Arts- Integrated Curriculum. A significant 
part of our work plan in 1998-99 as observers and 
inquirers about CAPE in its sixth year of operation 
was to explore the art of the possible. What is the 
nature of the arts-integrated curriculum when it 
appears to succeed? How does high quality arts- 
integrated instruction look and feel in the classroom? 
What qualities in teachers and artists help the process? 
How do high quality artist-teacher relationships 

develop? These questions are, of course, complex, but 
we summarize some of the salient findings. 

We investigated the nature of high quality 
integrated arts curriculum by choosing a select sample 
for this phase of the work. We initially chose 10 
teacher-artist pairs known for having worked success- 
fully together over time. We also observed their 
classes — both integrated classes with the teacher and 
artist typically present, and non- integrated lessons 
with only the teacher present. We also interviewed 
most partnership school principals and most partner- 
ship coordinators for their insights about effective arts 
integrated curriculum. 

What kinds of arts integration? We gained 
insights into a variety of approaches to and topics 
addressed through arts integration. In one case, high 
school students learned about the history of textiles 
and dyes from an artist and with the guidance of their 
chemistry teacher linked historical knowledge to 
modern principles of chemistry essential for the 
manufacture and coloring of contemporary fabrics. 
This was not a simple matter of color, but an explo- 
ration about chemistry related to the properties and 
problems of fabric colorization — issues now commer- 
cially addressed through complex chemical processes. 
In another example, we saw fifth graders producing 
public access video related to historical inventions 
and drawing parallels to the tasks and challenges of 
video production to the nature of scientific inquiry 
methods. Dance and principles of space and motion 
were integrated in another teaching unit, dance and 
the principles of written narrative in another. And in 
another classroom we saw third and fourth grade 
children working on a musical composition tied to 
the history of Chicago. Its lesson plan, along with 
others collected, exhibited explicit ties to both art and 
academic standards established by the Chicago Public 
Schools and the state of Illinois. 

How does effective integration work? Our 
respondents generally described effective arts integra- 
tion as stemming from the goals and standards of the 
academic curriculum, with the arts playing a partner 



role in the teaching and learning. Interviews and 
observations of teachers, artists, principals, and 
coordinators elicited the following criteria for 
effective integration: 

1 ) Kids should see connections and walk away with 
bigger ideas. 

This teacher artist pair seems to intrinsically 
understand how the artist can deepen the students' 
development in ways that academic projects or art 
projects alone cannot do. They plan together, with 
the artist being given the academic content, then 
turned loose to create dance experiences which 
complement that learning. The teacher and artist 
together brainstorm the projects to maximize 
students' application of both academic and artistic 
learning. . .Anyone committed to teaching for 
understanding, teaching the whole child, or develop- 
ing sentient and sensitive human beings would 
admire [this endeavor]. The approach here would be 
the envy of a highly artistic prep school. . . The 
teacher and artist had so completely taken the 
principles of movement from the academic lesson as 
the basis for this partnership that the students glided 
easily from dance to physics explanations. 

(Project observer write-up, spring 1999.) 

2) The students take their work seriously. 

3) The expressions and activities in the arts genuinely 
speak to important areas of the academic curricu- 
lum. This also means that the content is seen 
through more than one form, e.g. beyond the 
traditional written and spoken word. 

4) The content lesson and the artistic lesson are of 
equal importance. 

In one CAPE high school, a French teacher teams 
up with a member of a local theater company. A 
regular activity in the French class becomes the 
assignment of situations to small groups of students 
for improvisational theater presentations to the 

class. The partnership works on both French 
language skills — vocabulary, sentence construction, 
diction, listening comprehension — as well as theater 
skills — presenting characters and interactive 
situations before the class while speaking French. 
The power of this exercise is clear to anyone who 
witnesses it. If one is not a French speaker, one still 
understands much of what is going on in a given 
improvisation because of the gestures, poses, body 
language, facial expressions, movements, and vocal 
tones of the actors. This partnership has devised a 
rich way to show that communication comprises 
way more than the spoken word. It also puts 
students into natural speaking and listening 
situations. The final exam in French II is largely a 
single improvisation assignment and presentation. 

5) The experience has a planned assessment with 
rubrics or scoring guides. 

6) The lesson-plan should grow from state curricu- 
lum standards in both content areas and the arts. 

When we examined sample lesson plans obtained 
from teachers or artists we interviewed, all contained at 
least five ingredients: they planned for an artistic 
product, explained the academic goals and connection 
of the plan to state academic goals, outlined the art 
objectives, connected their objectives to state arts goals, 
and detailed plans for assessment of children's learn- 
ing. Some of the partnerships had developed detailed 
planning guides for proposed projects so that the 
desired ingredients would be represented. 

What does it take to create high quality arts- 
integrated instruction? In addition to hearing about a 
sizeable number of promising-sounding lessons from 
our respondents, we also asked them what it takes to 
succeed. The responses showed much overlap with 
those to questions concerning how teachers and artists 
succeed with arts-integrated instruction. Responses 
included the following: 

■ Supportive principals 

■ Highly skilled artists 


Adventuresome, risk-taking teachers 

Well defined learning objectives 

Matching objectives to assessment plans 

A good schedule to make school visits convenient 
for artists 

Teachers should choose art forms they like 

Sharing in faculty meetings 

A good steering committee 

A coordinator saw things this way: "...the first thing 
you notice in an arts integrated class is that every- 
body's working. Everybody's on task. Everybody is 
thinking and doing things and nobody is sleeping or 
day dreaming, and that's a really significant 
difference in classes. You can just tell in class — there's 
an electricity in the classroom, there's energy in 
classes using arts integrated things." 

As with individual and team traits thought 
important for success, many of these characteristics and 
guidelines emerged over time for participants in CAPE. 

CAPE's developmental influence on school 
conditions for success. We must note that our respon- 
dents informing the discussion immediately above on 
the one hand discussed conditions for success as they 
saw circumstances six years into their partnerships' 
involvement with CAPE. On the other hand, and quite 
important, our interviews along with NCREL's early 
evaluation were equally clear on the fact that these 
were not the conditions generally present as CAPE 
began planning and implementing 4 to 6 years earlier. 
CAPE partnerships and school communities learned 
much through their experiences over the years — how 
to plan, the importance of working effectively with 
school principals, how to structure teacher and artist 
learning experiences, and how to organize lessons. 

One way to articulate this sort of effect would be 
to say that CAPE schools would now have a long leg up 
on launching curriculum-based instructional improve- 
ment because of what they learned through CAPE. 

Which artists and teachers succeed with Arts 
Integrated Instruction? We hesitate to be restrictive in 
defining the types of teachers or artists who have the 
most promise for arts-integrated instruction. 
Nevertheless, we heard much about the qualities in 
each that can prove helpful. 

We should report at the outset that teachers were 
commonly seen across our interviews as professionals 
compelled to live within a fairly tight set of bound- 
aries. In contrast, artists were seen by teachers as 
people who live with relatively few boundaries. This to 
us is what makes the partnerships so interesting as well 
as challenging. It describes a part of the developmental 
agenda of individual teachers and artists who make 
commitments to work together. 

Artists. Our respondents identified a total of 16 
characteristics of artists that would tend to boost their 
success in integrated instruction. Some were fairly 
obvious — communication skills, classroom experience, 
ability to lesson plan, and love for art. 

Some were less expected, though fully plausible: 
trust in the teacher, knowledge of the academic 
subject, and understanding developmental growth of 
children, for example. 

Teachers. We had the same sort of groupings in 
recommended qualities for teachers as arts integrators. 
Predictable responses included openness to new ideas, 
interest and background in art and willingness to take 
risks. Respondents also recommended teacher willing- 
ness to seek training in art, willingness to relinquish 
some control of the classroom, and willingness to seek 
depth in their subjects. 

There are two clusters of characteristics that seem 
to deserve pointed focus in the characteristics cited by 
our interview respondents as important for teachers 
and artists in successful arts integrated instruction. On 
the teacher's side, these are willingness to let go of some 
control, openness to new ideas, flexibility, and risk 
taking. Bringing art into the academic curriculum 
requires change — often fundamental change in the 
ways teachers are used to teaching. The openness and 



adventuresome-ness identified in this list speak to the 
willingness to change on the part of the teacher. 

On the artists' side, we would identify organiza- 
tional skills, punctuality, good listening skills, as well 
as interest in and understanding of how children 
learn. Learning theory is not a standard part of an 
artist's formal education, and, as some pointed out to 
us, artists can tend to work on their own somewhat 
unpredictable schedules. But to work in a school, the 
artist needs a degree of organization, willingness to 
adhere to a schedule, willingness to try new things, 
and interest in the academic subject to be integrated. 

Developmental note. Once again, we must point 
out that these perspectives offered by teachers, artists, 
and others interviewed benefited from six years of 
hindsight. Skilled arts-integrating teachers and artists 
are not born; they develop skills over time. Most of our 
respondents described a learning process that pushed 
toward these individual traits and behaviors over the 
course of involvement in CAPE. 

Teacher- Artist Pairs — When do they succeed? 
An auspicious start for an artist-teacher pair would be 
high levels of the characteristics just described for each 
respectively. Probably more importantly and realisti- 
cally, teacher-artist pairs with long histories together 
described a very developmental process. In the early 
going, the artists put energy into learning what the 
teachers' objectives are for the unit. The teachers 
typically begin as neophytes in the symbol systems of 
the artists. The two need to be students of each other as 
they plan and begin. In successful partnerships, there is 
a constant process of teacher learning from artist and 
artist learning from teacher — and, of course, both 
learning from the students. The teacher and artist 
remain in communication about what they see working 
or not working and modify plans for the next session or 
the next unit they will do together. The teacher must 
learn to live with some unpredictability brought by the 
artist; the artist must learn to accept the necessary 
structure brought by the teacher. Couple these traits 
with love of the subject, love of art, and love of chil- 
dren, and a successful teacher-artist pair is born. 

One coordinator reflected, "The artist said, 'Do you 
think the artists need to learn the teacher talk? And, 
What's the vocabulary we need to know?' I said, no, 
don't go and try to learn the language because you'll 
bring your own language to our classroom and that 
makes for a rich experience. . . You need each other's 
skills. You can complement those skills. " 

How Does CAPE Grow in a School? 

When we look across CAPE schools, we see some 
instances where every teacher works with at least one 
artist to plan and implement at least one unit a year. 
This conception of whole school participation is based 
on everyone getting involved at some level. We saw an 
extreme example of this in one elementary school that 
manages to keep four artists in the visual arts, theater, 
music, and dance respectively in-house for the school 
year, with pairs of artists working with half of the 
teachers for one semester and the other half during 
the second semester. Not only were all teachers 
involved, but involved in multiple ways. Some teachers 
and coordinators devoted extraordinary personal time 
toward this sort of objective. 

At the same time, there are CAPE schools where 
only a fraction of teachers actively pursue arts- 
integrated teaching. 

Some schools have blossomed; others have not. 
This naturally gives rise to questions concerning how 
CAPE partnerships grow in a school from their first 
pilot trial days. 

When we asked teachers and coordinators about 
the growth process, some thought of the ultimate goal 
of arts integration as something unreachable. This was 
where whole school implementation was conceived as 
complete saturation of the curriculum — with all 
subjects being taught through the integration of the 
arts all of the time. This was seen as a wishful, far-off 
ideal. Some felt there would never be enough money 
for the needed artists, and some believed there were 
just too many areas of the curriculum that had not 
been proven to be totally teachable through the arts. 
Mathematics was the commonly cited example. 


Finally, some said that requisite planning time would 
never be found. Besides, working out scope and 
sequence in a single subject throughout an elementary 
school trying to integrate CAPE is a big enough job, 
according to most respondents. 

Nevertheless, CAPE has grown within schools 
over time, and our respondents had considerable 
thoughts about why. CAPE programs have grown 
where school principals have thought highly of the 
program and have assisted with the nurturing 
process. Principals are in charge of school funds, 
allocate space, and influence agendas for professional 
development and faculty meetings. 

One principal said, "CAPE has been a positive force 
in the school. My teachers through this five-year 
program have demanded to be a part of this, which 
I consider to be a real plus. It was targeted in the 
beginning for a few grades. People saw it as a big 
benefit and as a big positive. 

CAPE benefits when opportunities for collabora- 
tion and growth are made available, often under the 
purview of a school principal who can direct the 
professional development agenda. And CAPE has 
grown by positive word of mouth within schools. 

CAPE typically started with handfuls of teachers 
in a small consortium of schools who were willing to 
work together and who had access to a grant from 
CAPE to be able to hire participating artists. One 
moving force for growth was described by a teacher as 
CAPE's snowball or "fashion" effect. A program can 
grow with the robust force of a snowball, expanding 
its diameter by gathering devotees as it rolls. The 
"fashion" effect is another name for what we used to 
call the "contagion" effect of a pilot program. If the 
pioneer participants are succeeding and gaining praise 
and attention within a school, not to mention the 
good graces of the principal, additional explorer 
teachers and finally settler teachers will sign on. One 
element of this effect was that teachers reported 
higher and higher emphasis on the value of the arts as 

time went by. Teachers also reported changing their 
teaching in the direction of CAPE principles on their 
own. And artists systematically reported general re- 
vitalization by participation in CAPE. In short, CAPE 
has grown by word of mouth because many teachers 
and artists truly like what they are doing, and see 
results for children. 

CAPE also grows effectively in schools that have a 
realistic sense of the planning time needed to start up 
such a program and the ongoing planning and 
development required to make it stronger and deeper 
over time. Knowing that the development cycle will 
take years is important. 

We seemed to see the most growth and institu- 
tionalization where partnerships created planning 
formats that made sure the teaching and learning 
would attend to existing standards, where the teacher 
and artist could carefully think through their goals in 
advance, and where at least some attention was given 
to assessment. 

CAPE in the wider school community 

We asked all of our respondents — teachers, artists, 
coordinators, and principals — about relationships 
between CAPE and the wider community. This 
exploration sought ways in which CAPE may have had 
effects on the community as well as ways that the 
community may have helped CAPE to achieve its 
mission along the way. 

Community support for CAPE at this point is 
fairly localized to the participating schools. Many have 
written small grants to extend or broaden arts integra- 
tion. Several schools received substantial Annenberg 
grants (a foundation pursuing school improvement 
through multiple projects across the United States). 
Another school received an Oppenheimer Family 
Foundation grant to assist with a mosaic project. 
Parent support for CAPE projects is uneven. In some 
schools it is characterized as sparse. In others, parents 
turn out in large numbers for CAPE-related and other 
school activities, and in one partnership a group of 


parents simply took the CAPE project on from the 
beginning and helped with planning, grant writing, 
and scheduling. An occasional parent with specific 
skills (architecture; video production; philosophy of 
art) has become part of the integrated teaching 
process because of compatible skills. 

CAPE projects have some reported effects on 
other programs within their schools. As mentioned 
above, teachers have expanded their integrating 
repertoires after getting involved in CAPE units. In 
one school, chess became part of a teaching unit, and 
this brought a chess club to life. The drama activities 
in integrated teaching units have had effects on drama 
clubs and wider school theater activities. In a related 
example, a mural painting project had the effect of 
upgrading set design and painting in a school's drama 
department. Some schools report that the general 
quality of their assemblies has gone up with CAPE, 
because children are now comfortable with perform- 
ing, public speaking, and taking risks. 

Wider impacts of CAPE can be seen in what the 
artists bring back to the community and to their arts 
associations. This word of mouth has brought addi- 
tional artists to CAPE, allowing the program to grow, 
and has spread the word in the community that 
something interesting and worthwhile is going on in 
the program. 

Finally, we suspect that as more is written about 
CAPE, and more people around the nation become 
familiar with the program and its effects, CAPE will 
further expand its influence and presence beyond 
Chicago, Illinois. 5 

CAPE has been replicated in nine cities across the United States, 
Canada, and England. 

Artistic Talent Development 
for Urban Youth: 

The Promise and the Challenge 




National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented 
University of Connecticut, Storrs 


i a n s 



While the nation calls for recognition of 
outstanding talent and high achievement 
among its youth, little information about 
the development of artistic talent, especially among 
economically disadvantaged students from diverse 
cultural backgrounds, actually exists. Most existing 
models of talent development are based on studies of 
people who were born into a family that both valued 
their talents and had the means to support its develop- 
ment. With retrospective studies and memoirs of 
successful artists, we already know the outcome and 
can look back at the factors — parents, teachers, 
personal characteristics, lucky breaks — that made their 
success possible. 

But what about young people with interests, 
aspirations, and talents in the arts who do not have the 
support or financial resources to develop their talents? 
What about students who do not aspire to a career in 
the arts but are committed to serious study of them? 
What effect does arts instruction have on the develop- 
ment of students' identity, work habits, attitudes toward 
school, future opportunities, and the choices they 
make? And what can arts education institutions and 
programs do to help students succeed despite the 
obstacles they face? 

This report describes the findings of a study, 
funded by the Champions of Change program of the 
GE Fund, that followed current and former students of 
a performing arts program in the New York City Public 
Schools. Young Talent, a program developed and 
implemented by ArtsConnection, a not-for-profit arts 
in education organization, has been in existence for 20 
years, providing the researchers with a unique oppor- 
tunity to examine the conditions, experiences, and 
realities of talent development for a diverse spectrum 
of urban students over an extended period of time. 

The study, conducted by researchers from the 
National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, 
followed 23 children and young adults, aged 10-26, in 
three different stages of talent development in music 

and dance: elementary school; intermediate school; and 
high school, college, professional or semi-professional 
careers. A high percentage of the students in the 
program come from economically disadvantaged 
circumstances and attend or attended schools with no 
arts specialists. Over half of them had, at one time, been 
labeled as at-risk for school failure due to poor grades, 
absences, behavioral or family issues. The effect of 
sustained study in an art form on these talented young 
people provides powerful evidence for the crucial role 
of arts education in helping students achieve their 
educational and personal potential. 

The study made use of extended interviews with 
the students, their parents and families, arts instructors, 
and current and former academic teachers; observa- 
tions in both school and professional settings; and the 
collection of academic data. Researchers found that 
common elements emerged across ages and stages of 
development. While the basic factors of parental 
support, instructional opportunities, and personal 
commitment corroborate the essential findings of 
previous studies of talented teenagers in a variety of 
fields by Bloom (1985) and Csikszentmihalyi, 
Rathunde, & Whalen (1995), this study highlights 
important differences in the nature and impact of those 
factors as it relates to diverse, economically disadvan- 
taged, urban populations. 

The researchers were interested in uncovering and 
clarifying relationships between factors in three areas: 
1 ) obstacles faced by economically disadvantaged, 
urban students in pursuit of talent development in the 
arts; 2) external support and internal characteristics 
that helped students overcome those obstacles; and 3) 
the impact of serious arts involvement over an extended 
period of time on students' lives and capacities. To 
investigate these questions, the study focused on 
children and young adults at significant stages of 
committed learning in the arts. 

We hope that what we have discovered about these 
young artists can deepen our understanding of and 
appreciation for the challenges they face and the 
potential for artistic involvement to affect their lives. 


From a practical perspective, we feel that there is a great 
deal that schools, cultural institutions, community 
organizations, and parents can learn from these 
examples that can help them design programs to help 
young people who have talent and drive but few 
opportunities to pursue their dreams. 


The students in the study are current or former 
participants in the Young Talent Program, provided by 
ArtsConnection in their elementary schools. The 
program, begun in 1979, currently serves approximately 
400 students in grades three through six in eight New 
York City public elementary schools by providing 
instruction in dance, music, or theater. All of the cases 
in the study were drawn from the dance or music 
components of the program. The Young Talent 
Program offers introductory experiences for all stu- 
dents and more rigorous instruction for students who 
have been identified as potentially talented. 

The basic talent development program consists of 
weekly classes for 25 weeks between October and May 
for students in grades four, five, and six, taught by a 
team of two professional teaching artists. Student 
ensembles perform for their schools and communities, 
and an alumni program is offered for students graduat- 
ing the elementary school program at ArtsConnection's 
Center in midtown Manhattan. Advanced students also 
attend five to ten classes per year at professional studios 
and cultural institutions around the city. The curricu- 
lum is designed to be challenging and broad in scope, 
to give students opportunities to learn a variety of 
styles and techniques, and to develop their skills to 
prepare them for further study in the art form. 

The talent identification process, developed 
through a Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented grant 
from the United States Department of Education 
(Talent Beyond Words, US Department of Education 
grant # R206A00148 ) was designed to be equitable to 
students who have no previous arts instruction and 
come from diverse cultural backgrounds. The central 
purpose of the program is not to develop professional 

artists. Rather, the program strives to raise awareness 
and appreciation of the artistic abilities of all students 
and to recognize and develop the outstanding talents 
of many students who would not be identified as 
gifted and talented through academic tests or other 
traditional means. 

In addition to artistic instruction, support services 
offered through the Young Talent Program include staff 
development workshops for classroom teachers and 
small group, after-school assistance to students who are 
struggling academically. A site coordinator maintains 
contact with teachers and supervises the school 
program, maintains contact with parents and provides 
information about other instructional opportunities. 


The students were selected for the study from a 
pool of 400 current students, and more than 1500 
program graduates. A total of 32 students deemed 
potentially successful in their talent area were originally 
recommended. Out of these, 23 were selected for the 
study based on sampling procedures that differed for 
each cohort according to the special circumstances and 
status criteria existing at each level. Overall, the sample 
consisted of 12 females and 11 males, and it involved 16 
African Americans, 5 Latinos, and 2 Caucasians. 
Income information was not available for all families. 
As an indicator, approximately 19 of the 23 students 
were or had been eligible for free lunch in school. 

To obtain a developmental understanding of how 
talent is nurtured and evolves, three cohorts of students 
were chosen, identified by age and grade level. The 
elementary (11 students, age 10-12, grade 4-6), inter- 
mediate (6 students age 13-16, grade 7-9) and high 
school/adult (6 students, age 17-26, sophomore 
through post-scholastic) cohorts were distinguished by 
the type and level of arts instruction available to them. 
Elementary school students were provided with weekly 
Young Talent Program classes at their school and 
occasional classes in professional studios during and 
after the school day. Intermediate school students had 
fewer instructional opportunities at school and had to 



travel to ArtsConnection on their own on Saturdays to 
continue lessons. At high school level and beyond, arts 
instruction was completely voluntary and required a 
personal commitment of time and money. 

While the cohorts were defined by age, individuals 
within each cohort represented three major stages of 
talent development in a progression from novice to 
emerger to expert. These phases, recognized both by 
cognitive psychologists (Bruer, 1993; Newell & Simon, 
1972) and by developmental psychologists (Bloom, 
1985; Csikzentmihalyi & Robinson, 1986; Feldman, 
1986; Gardner, 1993) are defined by skills, motivation, 
and readiness for more advanced and challenging 
instruction and opportunities. In the arts, distinctions 
between stages are particularly fluid and cannot be 
generalized to all students of a particular age or 
experience level. Some fifth and sixth grade students in 
the study, for example, attended classes at professional 
dance studios and were invited to perform with adult 
companies. These students were more advanced in their 
skills and motivation than some of the intermediate or 
senior high school students. Thus, while most students 
in each cohort fit the developmental profile of elemen- 
tary-novice, intermediate-emerger, or high 
school/adult-expert, the students' age and stage do not 
necessarily correspond. 


In this longitudinal multiple-case study approach, 
a variety of data were collected over the course of the 
two-year study. These multiple perspectives allowed for 
triangulation of data that could confirm or reject 
hypotheses (Moon, 1991). Available data varied for each 
cohort, but all cases included in-depth structured and 
semi-structured interviews with the students and their 
families, academic teachers, arts instructors, and 
members of the ArtsConnection staff who regularly 
interacted with the students and their families. 

A second method of data collection was field 
observations. The project researchers and outside 
experts observed the students on repeated occasions 
during talent identification auditions, talent develop- 

ment lessons, and performances. A third method 
included systematic collection of standardized achieve- 
ment test scores and arts progress evaluations. In 
addition to these ratings, many of the students com- 
pleted self-concept and self-efficacy scales. A fourth 
method included examination of records and awards 
and ratings used in talent development and scholarship 
auditions. Student focus groups and questionnaires 
were other sources of data. 

Profiles of Talent Development 

The following profiles introduce a student from 
each age and grade-level cohort, and provide a glimpse 
into the different stages of talent development. The 
young people on this journey, whether starting in the 
arts or maintaining their study as adults, face numerous 
obstacles. They find support and assistance from family, 
friends, arts mentors and classroom teachers, and they 
are deeply affected by their artistic involvement. The 
stories are representative of the rich data upon which 
the cross-case analyses were based. At the start of the 
study, Carmela was 11, in fifth grade and a participant 
in the Young Talent Program. Gloria was 14, an eighth 
grade program graduate, and Tony was a 22-year old 
professional dancer. In the two years of the study, 
Carmela moved to middle school and was making high 
school plans, Gloria moved into high school, and Tony 
continued his career. 


In the cramped hallway of the Martha Graham 
School on East 63rd Street in Manhattan, dancers of all 
ages squeeze past each other on the way to and from 
the dressing rooms. Carmela 12, sits alone on a bench 
doing her homework. Several times a week she leaves 
school in Queens at 2:30, gets to the studio at 3:00 and 
does her homework until 4:00, then warms up to get 
ready for class at 4:30. "Then I take my class. I come 
back, I pick up my stuff, pick out a book on the train 
and start reviewing all the stuff. It's really hard for me." 

When Carmela arrived in the Bronx from Caracas 
four years ago, she was the only Venezuelan in her 


school. She knew little English and had trouble com- 
municating with the other Latino (primarily Puerto 
Rican) students in Spanish. She had few friends and 
missed her large family in Venezuela. When her father 
abandoned the family, her mother was forced to take a 
job as a live-in domestic on Long Island, leaving 
Carmela, her 19 year-old sister Carmen and 17 year-old 
brother Juan on their own during the week. They 
shared chores, cooking, cleaning, and laundry. Carmen 
and Juan helped Carmela with homework. 

While adjusting to a new country and language, 
three new schools and the difficult living arrangements, 
Carmela danced. She had never taken a dance class in 
Venezuela, but was fascinated when she started watch- 
ing dance on TV. "I watched a piece by Martha Graham 
on Channel 13," she remembers. It was Clytemnestra or 
something. It was great. I was like, 'Yeah, I want to do 
this!' I loved it. I said, 'Mommy, I want to be in danc- 
ing.' But we didn't know where the dance schools were 
at or anything." In third grade she was selected to be 
part of the Young Talent Program in her school, and by 
fifth grade she had received a scholarship to the 
Graham school. Carmela dreams of a career in dance 
but recognizes the difficulties she will face: 

It s very tough because my Mom doesn't have a lot of 
money. I don't know how to think about that. I don't 
know what I would do when I get to that point. My 
mom, she's my role model. I just have to keep on 
going, try my best. Even though my mom is not 
home, I still have to keep on studying and going to 
school and being responsible to myself. We came to 
this county to start a new life and to accomplish our 
goals, and that's what we are trying to do. I am just 
challenging myself to do the best I can do, to reach 
out to the goal that I want. Say we go back to 
Venezuela, I want to be a very successful person so 
they can look up to me. 


Gloria is a large girl with an imposing presence. 
Her fourth grade classmates described her as tough. 

Her teachers described her as a bully, with very low self- 
esteem and an aggressive attitude. When she started the 
ArtsConnection music program Gloria had already 

repeated third grade, was in the lowest reading group, 

and her teacher worried that she might need to repeat 

fourth grade, "I feel Gloria has the potential, but her 

mind seems to be on other things", the teacher said. 

She has a problem focusing attention and getting her 

work done." There was plenty to distract her. Gloria 

once told a teacher that she would "probably end up 

becoming a drug addict like my mother." Because of her 

mother's frequent illnesses, Gloria was shuttled between 

her grandmother and mother and missed a significant 

amount of school. 

In third grade, Gloria became part of the Young 
Talent music program. Her music teacher saw through 
her sometimes sullen looks and impatient behavior to 
her positive potential. "She could be brutal at times, 
but I saw an energy for leadership," he remembers. He 
gave her responsibilities and leadership roles within the 
music group, and he constantly pushed her to open up 
and to achieve. In fifth grade, Gloria's academic 
performance improved dramatically. "She went from 
the bottom reading group in the fourth grade to the 
top in grade five," her fourth grade teacher explained. 
"She seemed to feel better about herself. Somehow she 
got the message that she was special and a good 
person. I honestly don't think this would have hap- 
pened if it weren't for the music program." She also 
began to have a group of friends for the first time in 
her life. She said, "When I first met Jasmine and 
Simone in second grade we hated each other. Then 
Simone became my best friend. When we started with 
ArtsConnection we just became friends, because we 
knew we had something in common." 

As her talent developed, Gloria was placed in more 
demanding situations. She became part of the student 
performing ensemble, which performed regularly at 
school, in the community and at events around the city. 
The highlight for Gloria was a performance at President 
Clinton's 1992 Inauguration. "After getting a standing 
ovation for our performance in Washington, D.C., I 


really began to think of myself as a musician", she said. 
We even had a press conference. That was really fun. It 
made us feel like we were real famous." 

Gloria's grades continued to improve during 
intermediate school, where she was placed in the top 
academic classes, was consistently on the academic 
honor roll and was valedictorian of her intermediate 
school class. Gloria remembers her grandmother's 
edict, "You also have got to do good in school. So if 
you want to go to ArtsConnection, you've got to do 
your schoolwork, too." Gloria doesn't think she wants 
to pursue a career in music. She says, "I feel that if I go 
to school for music and be involved in ArtsConnection 
and [the performing group], music's going to become a 
bore. I don't want to have music all the time. I could do 
other things, you know. I don't only know how to play 
music." She is currently studying fashion design as well 
as music at a New York City arts magnet high school. 


"They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it 
surely took this village to raise this child," said Tony's 
mother. As a single parent, she worked as a cook at a 
community center while raising seven children. As she 
thinks back on the development of her youngest son, 
Tony, now 24, a member of the internationally 
renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, she 
says, "Out of the hundreds, literally hundreds, of people 
that helped, if just one wasn't there, I think maybe Tony 
wouldn't be here. You know, because each role they 
played was very important. If you eliminate just one of 
them, he might not have come this far." When Tony 
started dance as a second grader in East Harlem neither 
he nor his mother had ever heard of Alvin Ailey. Tony 
was the only member of the family who was interested 
in pursuing the arts. 

Tony was seven when the Young Talent Program 
came to his school in 1979. At that time, all classes were 
held at the Ailey school. "I really didn't know what was 
going on," Tony remembered. "I just knew it was dance, 
and it was movement, and I wanted to audition. I really 
didn't know what I was getting into; it was just a lot of 

fun." His fourth grade teacher recommended removing 
him from the dance program because of problems in 
math. However, the assistant principal, recognizing 
Tony's talent and the opportunity he had at the Ailey 
school, intervened and arranged for a Columbia 
University student to tutor Tony two mornings a week 
in math. His grades improved, and he was able to 
continue in the dance program. 

After sixth grade, ArtsConnection and the Ailey 
school provided a scholarship so that Tony could attend 
classes four days a week in the demanding and compet- 
itive environment of a professional dance studio. He 
traveled downtown to Ailey from his intermediate 
school, but his mother would not let him come home 
alone after dark. "After work I used to have to come 
downtown on the bus (from 101st Street in Harlem to 
45th Street) and sit and wait in the lobby with the 
security man until six," she recalls. Tony credits his 
mother's dedication to his talent as one of the major 
reasons he continued to pursue dance. "I didn't have a 
lot of material things like other kids had, but I did have 
my mother. She wasn't a stage mother; she was just 
easy, and she knew which direction I was going in. She's 
followed me and supported me as opposed to leading 
me to where I wanted to go." 

After junior high school Tony and his mother 
disagreed about his high school choices. She wanted to 
him to attend a business oriented school with a strong 
math and computer program. Tony wanted to go the 
High School of Performing Arts. After satisfying herself 
that Performing Arts had a strong academic program as 
well as dance, his mother relented. As a senior, Tony 
earned a National Foundation of the Arts Award. In 
1991, Tony entered the elite corps of the Ailey 
Company. "I grew up within eight months of touring," 
he said of his experience. "It made me stronger. It 
made me become the man I am." As a featured dancer 
for the Ailey Company, Tony has now traveled all over 
the world on grueling ten-week tours. 

Recently he has begun to work with students in the 
communities and institutions that helped him develop 
his own talent and follow his dream. He has performed 


many local lecture-demonstrations and taught work- 
shops for the Ailey Repertory Ensemble. "It's funny, I 
remember as though it were yesterday, [when] I was 
auditioning for a workshop at the school, and now here 
I am giving one," he reflected. He also returns to his 
community to talk to young dancers about his career 
and his influences. "I hope I inspire the kids," he said. "I 
want them to get an understanding that dance, or any 
art they concentrate on, is a part of life. And also to 
have fun — not in a silly joking way, just enjoying dance, 
enjoying life and learning things". 

These talented young artists clearly have the drive 
and the talent to succeed. Perhaps, if they had never 
been exposed to dance or music, they would have 
found something else on which to focus their energies. 
But that is far from certain. The sacrifices they and their 
families have made are fueled by a passion for their art. 
All of the students have faced serious obstacles that 
could have kept them from ever discovering their 
talents or pursuing their dreams. 


I. Impact of Talent Development 

The large majority of students in the study have 
achieved a high level of success in the arts, in school 
and in their career choices. Success in this study was 
defined in three dimensions: 1 ) the degree to which 
they were able to develop their talent, 2) their acade- 
mic progress and aspirations, and 3) evidence of 
personal development that can help them in other 
areas of their lives. Success in talent development was 
measured by continued involvement in training both 
in and outside of school, instructor evaluations, 
awards, scholarships, and performing experience. 
Academic progress was defined as good grades in 
school, or completion of high school and engagement 
in post-secondary education. Personal development 
involved the application of individual talent in career 
or personal life and the discipline and motivation in 
pursuing interests and responsibilities. 

Of the six students in the high school/adult cohort, 
all are still involved in dance or other artistic pursuits — 
two as professional dancers, two taking dance in college 
and two in high school (one theater, one fashion 
design). One went directly into a professional dance 
career after high school; one is pursuing a dance career 
after college; two are in college (majoring in dance 
therapy and psychology); and two are high school 
students planning to go to college. Five of the six in the 
intermediate cohort are making good progress in 
school and planning to attend college immediately after 
high school. All six are still involved in music. 
Outcomes for the elementary cohort are incomplete. 
Nine of the 1 1 students received positive evaluations 
from their instructors and were recommended to 
continue in the Young Talent Program or Alumni 
program (for graduates of the in-school program). 

This study poignantly reveals how the development 
of artistic talents can positively effect the personal 
qualities shown in the literature to be critical to 
becoming psychologically healthy and productive 
adults. While the artistic, academic, and professional 
outcomes were different for each individual, many of 
the personal qualities and behavioral indicators that 
seemed to directly contribute to the students' success 
were common across cases and age groups. These 
qualities were: resilience, self- regulation, identity and 
the ability to experience flow. Clearly, these characteris- 
tics are correlated and interact reciprocally, each having 
the effect of strengthening the other. 


The students participating in the program 
became committed to their art because they loved it. 
Csikzentmihalyi ( 1990) uses the term "flow" to 
describe a state of total absorption, when people are 
so completely involved in an activity that they lose 
track of time; they are unaware of fatigue, hunger, 
distractions, or anything but the activity itself. 
Ultimately the state of flow in the arts — the creative 
state of mind, the demanding physical exertion, and 
the clear goal of performing, communicating, and 



sharing themselves with an audience — was a unique 
experience. For many, the arts became the focus of 
daily existence and the central driving force behind 
their commitment to talent development. The time 
they spent in arts classes, rehearsals and performances 
appeared to give them a satisfaction unsurpassed by 
other pursuits and aspects of their lives. 

It's like I became addicted to dance. 

Elementary student 

Think, think dance. I don't think classroom at all — / 
think dance. I think that I am on the stage and I 
don't look in the mirror, I look beyond the mirror 
and I put the music right through my body and just 
let it settle and move like water. Movement is not 
only a way of thinking, it is a way of understand- 
ing — how, when, where.. Adult dancer 

They seem to be in their own world; when they are 
performing they are lost in their music; they are 
totally focused. Parent 


The students were aware of the self- regulatory 
behaviors they used to be successful in the arts. 
Students in all three cohorts commented on both the 
specific processes and learning strategies, as well as the 
general habits of practice, focus, and discipline that 
helped them progress in demanding instruction. 
Current learning theory emphasizes the importance of 
self-regulation for succeeding in any endeavor. 
Students are self-regulated when they are aware of 
their own learning processes and select useful strategies 
to complete a task (Bandura, 1986; Zimmerman, 
1996). Research has shown that when students are 
engaged in challenging activities that accentuate their 
talents, they demonstrate extraordinary ability to 
regulate their own learning (Baum, Owen, & Oreck, 
1997; Baum, Renzulli, & Hebert, 1995). Because the 
pursuit of the arts was so intrinsically rewarding for 
these students, hard work was embraced eagerly. They 
acknowledged that they were pushed physically and 

mentally, learning their limits and testing their 
responses to hard work. As the students moved 
through the stages of talent development, they became 
increasingly able to apply their successful self-regula- 
tory behaviors to other areas of their personal and 
academic lives. For the most part, these students 
achieved in school, set goals for their future, and 
assumed responsibility for their actions. 

J think you call it mind over movement. You have to 
really listen to the song and while you're playing you 
still have to listen to make sure you're in the right 
key. So you use your mind to tell you the part of the 
song, and you use movement to keep playing it and 
doing what you re doing. The mind over movement 
has helped me listen and take notes at the same time. 

Intermediate student 

When someone pushes you and you find that you 
improve, you learn to practice. Because you know if 
you practice it, you get it. So they gave us that start- 
off push. You didn't want to. You were tired. And then 
the next class, you didn't need the push anymore. 
Then you know that 'if I can do this with my body, 
then I must be able to do this with my mind. I may 
not be perfect, but I am getting better! So it does help 
when you see it physically. High school student 


As students reach adolescence, their identity is 
often contingent upon being accepted by peers. The 
students began to see themselves as professional 
artists. They developed a strong bond with similarly 
talented peers and formed their own support group. 
Together they worked toward reaching shared goals 
and reinforced values modeled by their arts instruc- 
tors. Erikson (1963, 1980) would define this process 
as successful resolution of the identity crisis typical of 
the adolescent years. During adolescence, identity and 
emotional health are closely tied to the perception of 
cognitive strengths. In this way, students are able to 
visualize how they may fit into the adult world 
(Reilly, 1992). 


It's a big part of the music knowing that you have 
somebody that shares something with you. I think it's 
mostly the music, knowing that you have people there 
who know what you know, and you can play the 
music with them and you understand them. When 
you talk what they call "music talk," they understand 
you. I don't think that anybody else would under- 
stand you and them in a conversation. It's like you're 
connected through your mind. It's like this telepathic 
thing, you know? Intermediate student 


Resilience describes the ability that some individu- 
als display to bounce back from adverse experiences 
(Beaedsly, 1989; Rutter, 1987). All of the students in the 
study faced adversity and individual challenges. Some 
faced situations that could have sent them down a path 
of underachievement and helplessness where they 
might have felt they had no control over their lives. Yet 
in spite of these circumstances most were able to 
overcome some of the potential obstacles through 
external support and their strong desire to excel. 
According to Ford (1994), resilience is strengthened and 
nurtured when children have positive and strong 
relations with peers, family, and community, where they 
can find both emotional and physical support. 

Without [the group] I'd have no real friends who love 
music the way I do. School is awful and nothing is 
right. My uncle was killed, there's no music at school, 
and no opportunities for me. But my Mom keeps 
asking me the same question over and over and over 
again. When are you going to play music again? 

Intermediate student 

It gave me another world. You have reality and then 
you have Saturdays when you went and danced.. .you 
were creating a story so that was another outlet. I 
was able to go forget for those couple of hours and 
just dance and have fun., that was always my natural 
high. No school. No thinking. Nothing. 

High school student 

II. Obstacles of Talent Development 

Researchers examined issues that had the potential 
to inhibit or undermine the development of the 
students' artistic talents. Clearly, the same obstacles 
could block a child's pursuit of any talent or interest, 
but the arts pose some special problems that are 
exacerbated for families lacking available time and 
disposable income. The task of finding and maintain- 
ing appropriate instruction, acquiring necessary 
equipment and instruments, and finding time for 
practicing and rehearsing, stop many children from 
ever beginning to study the arts. Personal, family, and 
peer issues combine to challenge the young artist at 
each step of the way. One can rarely point to a single 
reason that a student decides, or is forced, to abandon 
artistic talent development. 

Interestingly, in the course of the interviews, many 
situations that appeared to be serious obstacles were 
not perceived as such by the students and their families. 
It was clear, however, that a combination of these and 
other factors could and sometimes did derail the 
student's progress at various stages in the process. 

Family Circumstances 

Of the 23 students in the study, 13 lived in single- 
parent households. Many lived with other family 
members who contributed to the family income, 
but in all cases the mothers worked as much as they 
were able, and most of the students were eligible for 
free lunch. In the elementary cohort, 4 of the 11 
families resided in the U.S. for fewer than 5 years. 
Parents who had professional positions in their native 
countries could find no comparable positions in 
New York and had to take whatever jobs they could. 
Within the first three years of arriving in New York, 
all of the parents of immigrant families in the study 
had either divorced or separated, leaving the children 
in the custody of their mothers. This dissolution 
placed each household in emotional and financial 
turmoil and had a direct effect on the students' ability 
to pursue talent development opportunities. 



In Venezuela we always had our whole family there, 
so you would feel more comfortable, so you could do 
anything you want. But we got here and there was 
only us, us four on our own. Elementary student 

Safety Concerns 

The parents of elementary school students 
expressed serious concerns about allowing their 
children to participate in afterschool, evening, or 
weekend activities if they could not personally 
accompany them. While none of the schools are in 
the city's most crime-ridden neighborhoods, the 
issues of safety from older children and gangs, traffic, 
and the police (particularly for the boys) were 
foremost in parents' thinking. 

I don't let my children out alone. There's too much 
going on. I really feel bad because when I was 
growing up I was able to go out and play because 
there wasn't going on in the neighborhood what's 
going on now. It's a bad neighborhood. You hear 
gunshots and you don't know. I have a friend who 
lost all three of her sons who were killed on the 
streets. Parent of intermediate student 

Lack of affordable or appropriate instructional 

ArtsConnection works in schools that tend to be 
deficient in arts programs and are located in commu- 
nities that are underserved by cultural institutions. 
Even in neighborhoods where affordable and appro- 
priate opportunities do exist, limited financial 
resources or lack of awareness regarding such pro- 
grams often keep students from participating. In the 
East Harlem, South Bronx, and Brooklyn neighbor- 
hoods in which the Young Talent Program schools are 
located, many free or low-cost arts programs in 
churches, boys and girls clubs, YMCAs, and settlement 
houses have been cut back or reconfigured as social 
service programs in recent years. 

Without the ArtsConnection program Simone would 
not have developed any of these talents. All the 
children in the program were blessed that this 
program came along. I could never afford to give her 
this kind of lessons. Parent of adult dancer 

Peer resentment and social stigma 

Negative peer pressure and social stigma for high 
achieving students increased as the students pro- 
gressed, apparently reaching a peak in intermediate 
school. In elementary school, the selection process for 
the advanced group led to some jealousies among 
certain students who were not in the advanced group 
Overall, however, the Young Talent students felt 
supported by their elementary school friends, and 
their accomplishments were a source of pride for the 
schools. In intermediate school, many of the students 
felt that they had to hide their artistic interests to be 
accepted. By high school, those who had maintained 
their artistic interests felt more comfortable demon- 
strating their talents and pursuing them actively both 
in and outside of school. The stigma of participation 
in dance for boys began in late elementary school, 
when over half of the boys left the dance program. 
There were many reasons for this drop-off in male 
participation, including negative perceptions about 
male dancers from friends and parents and competi- 
tion from sports and other interests. 

You can never tell who will be supportive or who will 
'catch the attitude' that, you know, she thinks she's 
more special and stuff like that. High school student 

Who do you think you are — better than us because 
you do gigs? Intermediate student 

It's tough being a good student in my high school. 
Most of my friends from before don't know why I'm 
taking hard academic courses. They tease me about 
'acting White' and being a show-off. It makes me feel 
bad but I'll have the last laugh when they see me 
getting both a Regents diploma and a regular 
diploma at graduation. High school student 


Personal dreams versus practical realities 

During high school, the conflict between dreams 
and realities became a serious obstacle. Most of the 
high school/adult cohort had already made the 
decision to move towards serious study and expert 
status by the time they reached eighth grade, as 
signaled by their application to magnet arts schools. 
Once in high school, students faced decisions about 
pursuing college and had to consider the potential 
costs and financial sacrifices of continuing their 
involvement in the arts. Parents raised concerns and 
challenged students' commitment to further training. 

My father said, 'Oh, it's the young thing to do, go to 
dance class and this and that, and now it's time to 
get serious.' I was in college and he was asking how 
my computer classes were going, and I said, "What 
are you talking about? I'm a dancer, don't you 
realize that by now? Like, this is my job.' And he was 
like: 'So how's the psychology [class] going? 

High school student 

III. Success Factors 

Four major factors emerged as key to the students' 
continued pursuit of arts training in the face of 
obstacles: family support; instructional opportunities; 
community, peer and school support; and innate 
personalogical considerations and motivation. The 
interaction among these factors helped fuel the stu- 
dents' progress in talent development. 

Family support 

As in other studies examining talent development 
(Bloom, 1985; Csikzentmihalyi, Rathunde, & Whalen, 
1993; Feldman, 1986; Olszweski, Kulieke, & Buesher, 
1987), support of the family was critical for these 
students. Many personal and financial sacrifices had to 
be made, not just on the part of parents, but by siblings, 
grandparents, and the entire extended family. Parents 
made major adjustments in their schedules, and some 
changed jobs to enable their children to participate in 
the arts program. 

I just knew how important this program was for her. 
I had to find a better way to be therefor Gloria. I 
quit my job and took in children to watch. The 
money is not good but I fought the courts for welfare 
assistance and finally won. Now however, I'm losing 
my tenants. I don't know how I will continue to make 
ends meet. Grandmother of intermediate student 

High quality instructional opportunities 

A crucial factor in the students' success was their 
introduction to the arts in elementary school. Their 
talents were recognized through a fair, systematic 
system of talent identification, and they had the chance 
to work with highly trained professionals who pro- 
vided ongoing, rigorous arts instruction both in their 
schools and in professional environments. Without a 
special program such as Young Talent, funded by 
public and private sources outside of the New York 
City Board of Education, which has removed most 
performing arts specialists from the schools in the last 
20 years, it is clear that most of these students would 
not have had their talents identified or nurtured. One 
of the most important aspects in the successful 
development of talent, according to Bloom (1985), is 
the transition from a student's first teacher to the next 
teacher who provides greater challenges and expertise. 
The professional artist instructors in the Young Talent 
Program were able to provide both levels of instruc- 
tion, with the nurturing attitude of a beginning teacher 
and the advanced skills to continue challenging the 
developing artists. 

While many of the students had shown early 
interest in the arts, few had the opportunity for formal 
instruction. Lacking instruction, neither the students 
nor their parents or teachers were aware of the extent 
of their talent and consequently, potential (Baum, 
Owen & Oreck, 1996). In one school in 1990, for 
example, of the 24 third-grade students originally 
identified as talented in music, 18 continued in the 
advanced performing ensemble through sixth grade 
and attended Saturday classes during seventh and 
eighth grade. The six highly talented musicians in the 



intermediate group who now play as a semi-profes- 
sional ensemble all came from the original 24 selected 
from four classrooms. It is startling to imagine the 
talent that is being missed in schools without such a 
talent identification process. 

I think that if ArtsConnection wasn't there, I 
wouldn't have pursued it on my own. I really don't. 

High school student 

You must have a professional artist coming into the 
school. What they bring is their commitment to the 
art, their own gifts, their drive to create good art, 
their immersion in the art world, their commitment 
to excellence. That gets translated to the students and 
to the teachers who are observing. So an artist brings 
something into a school that a teacher just can't 
maintain for six hours a day. The artist brings the 
outside in, in a way that can open up worlds to 
students and to teachers. Classroom teacher 

Are you sure you have the right Jason? He is so shy. I 
know he likes music, but I never thought he was any 
good at it. Mother of intermediate student 

. ..some kids are truly very, very talented, and that 
talent would never come out unless they were 
auditioned. But when you come in and audition a 
whole class for a specific talent, and you have 
professionals who were listening, not just a teacher, 
then you could pick out kids that had the talent. And 
a lot of those kids who were picked would have been 
lost, never discovered, lost by the wayside. Principal 

As part of the Young Talent Program, 
ArtsConnection provided classes for students at 
cultural institutions around the city. Students were 
bussed to the classes and received information about 
weekend, after-school, and summer programs and 
scholarship opportunities. Students and their families 
were informed of and encouraged to attend auditions 
to continue their training outside of school. The 
experience of attending classes in the professional 
environment had a powerful impact on the students. 

They became aware of opportunities outside of their 
own neighborhoods. They were expected to act like 
professionals and to learn a new code of behavior that 
applies to the studio. They experienced the expecta- 
tions and demands of the professional. As part of the 
classes, students had the opportunity to see both older 
students and professionals at work. 

The arts instructors served as professional role 
models whether or not the students aspired to a 
professional career in the arts. The instructor was seen 
as someone who had "made it" and was making a 
living through their talent and creativity. Many of the 
students in the study said that the rigorous demands 
of the teaching artists challenged and motivated them 
to higher levels of mastery. The sense of purpose and 
professionalism of the artist was apparent whether the 
classes were held in the school gymnasium or in a 
professional studio. 

Over the three years of study in the Young Talent 
Program, elementary students built powerful relation- 
ships with their arts instructors. This kind of relation- 
ship has been found to be vital to talent development 
(Bloom, 1985; Csikzentmihalyi, Rathunde, & Whalen, 
1993; Feldman, 1986), especially with talented young- 
sters at risk (Baum, Renzulli, & Hebert, 1995; Emerick, 
1992; Hebert, 1993; Richert, 1992). Meaningful relation- 
ships formed with an adult who believes in the student's 
abilities can provide the emotional support needed to 
overcome feelings of insecurity and frustration. In all 
cases, the instructors were seen by the students as role 
models and served as an inspiration to them to continue 
on their journey in talent development. 

If I wasn't in ArtsConnection I wouldn't have the 
chance to audition for Disney and I wouldn't have 
had the chance to go to meet other new people. 

Intermediate student 

A lot of other girls knew who he was, but I didn't. 
'That's Baryshnikov!' We heard everybody whisper- 
ing his name. I was standing right next to him and 
I turned around and just smiled and said 'hi'. He 
said 'Hello.' He was nice. He didn't really act uppity. 


We sat right next to him and kept watching him 
stretch. The man was standing right next to me and 
I didn't know who he was. High school student 

We try to do our best never to let him down because he 
would never let us down. Intermediate student 

He really cares about us and makes us feel special. At 
times he's hard on us and won't let us stop until we 
perform up to his high expectations. We give our 
supreme effort to him because he gives to us, too. 

Intermediate student 

First of all, I love to see my Black sisters and brothers 
talk so strongly about us. She always was talking 
about discipline and how if we ever wanted to be 
somebody or do something, we had to go in the right 
direction. She was always giving a positive message. 

High school student 

Community and School Support 

Despite incidents of negative peer response, 
most of the students in the study reported that they 
received mostly positive support from their class- 
mates and teachers, particularly in elementary school. 
The involvement of the entire school in the Young 
Talent Program stimulated interest and raised 
appreciation for the students' artistic talents on the 
part of peers and classroom teachers. The positive 
feedback and encouragement served to validate and 
support the students' efforts and accomplishments. 

A vital facet of the Young Talent Program was the 
adult supervision provided by ArtsConnection. Many 
of the parents said that they would not have allowed 
their children to participate in after-school rehearsals 
and special performances if there had not been a 
trusted adult available to supervise them and get 
them home safely. 

For the talented youngsters in this study, the 
advanced music and dance classes provided an 
appropriate and natural support group. The students 
formed close relationships in a context where they 

were able to be themselves and feel accepted and 
valued. Participation in such a group was especially 
important after the students left elementary school. 

My friends made me feel a little bit superior because 
of their compliments. Intermediate student 

Having Mrs. H. (ArtsConnection site coordinator) 
was gorgeous. With Mrs. H. there, I can trust that my 
son is in good hands. Parent of Intermediate student 

/ wouldn't say [we're like] a family. It's like we are 
one. We would not be as close without the group. We 
have family bonds. We help each other, and we learn 
from each other. Intermediate student 

Personalogical Characteristics and Motivation 

The support structures described above were 
essential in creating the conditions which allowed the 
students to follow their interests and proceed with 
their talent development. But without the student's 
desire or motivation to embark upon this journey, the 
support systems would have no foundation. Analysis of 
the primary motivations for the students uncovered 
three major themes: 1) an early interest in music or 
dance; 2) a family who valued the arts; and 3) the 
development of an identity as a professional. 

When I was a little girl I said, T want to be a 
ballerina.' I knew I didn't really want to be a 
ballerina, but I wanted to dance. Like a White- 
skinned beauty, she can be a ballerina if she wants 
to, but I could never be a ballerina. There was really 
nowhere to go. My parents don't really understand, 
you know, they think you will grow out of it 
eventually. High school student 

Cultural values and family background 

The majority of the students from all three 
cohorts came from families and cultures who appreci- 
ate the arts — especially dance and music. In many 
cases, family members had extensive experiences in 
dance and music. 



Sense of professionalism through challenge 

As the students progressed, they began to see 
themselves as professional dancers or musicians. They 
displayed a growing confidence in their own abilities, 
especially as they mastered increasingly complex 
pieces and performed before a variety of audiences 
and with professional musicians or dancers. They 
seemed to thrive when challenged and to set ever 
higher goals. Indeed, as the curriculum became more 
challenging they exerted more effort. Their love of 
performing, both for themselves and in front of an 
audience, further energized them to act like profes- 
sional artists. 

There is always singing and dancing of some kind 
when our family gets together. Intermediate student 

I" wanted to quit when I was in high school and the 
dance wasn't advanced as I thought it would he or 
could he. I was more advanced. I needed a challenge. 

Adult dancer 

When the audience compliments me about how well 
we did, I feel like a musician. It makes me want to try 
something new — go beyond my limits. 

Intermediate student 


The findings from the three research questions 
revealed a set of interrelated factors and outcomes that 
were common across cultural groups and socio- 
economic levels in the study. Figure 1 shows how the 

Figure 1. Model of obstacles, success factors and outcomes 


Family Circumstances 


Family sacrifice 
Extended families 

Lack of Instructional 


Talent identification 

Professional instructors/role models 

Professional environmen' 

Peer Pressure 


Adult supervision 

Peer group 

School support 

Dreams vs. Realities 


Early interest 

Cultural values 

Sense of professionalism 








s*i y 



factors interact to help the students develop their 
personal capacities and to achieve success in their 
talent area. 

As can be seen in the interlocking model, the 
success factors contributed directly to the students' 
abilities to overcome the obstacles. The success factors 
are grouped according to their primary impact on the 
obstacles, but a one-to-one relationship between 
obstacle and success factor would be overly simplified. 
Each obstacle was surmounted by support systems 
that varied in nature, depending on the age or stage of 
development, as well as the talents, values, and 
motivation of each individual. 

This model uses a broadened definition of support. 
For example, the type and level of parental support for 
the students' artistic development contradicts many 
common stereotypes about lack of involvement on the 
part of economically disadvantaged, single working 
parents. While the inability of parents to attend 
meetings, school events, and arts performances could 
be construed as a lack of support, further investigation 
revealed that family support extended to brothers and 
sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and neighbors. 
When parents and primary care-givers were unable to 
be present personally, they made often highly complex 
arrangements for their child to attend classes, perfor- 
mances, and events after school, on weekends, and in 
the summer. The parents' primary concern for their 
childrens' academic achievement rarely interfered with 
their encouragement of artistic talent development. 

The arts have clearly occupied a central place in 
the education and identity of these students, whether 
or not they were working towards an artistic career. It 
seems clear from this study that the most crucial 
external success factor was the existence of a school- 
based program that identified and developed students' 
artistic talents and interests. The typical comment 
from students and parents was, "I never would have 
started (dance or music) if it hadn't been for the Young 
Talent Program in my school." 

It is equally clear that programs in economically 
disadvantaged communities with few arts resources 

and in schools that are underserved by arts specialists 
must include the sort of support components that are 
routinely available to more advantaged children. 
Beyond direct school-based instruction, the Young 
Talent Program provided students and their families 
with information about further training opportunities 
and scholarships, arranged visits and auditions to 
magnet arts schools, made travel arrangements and 
provided chaperones, organized summer training, 
supplied equipment and instruments, and created a 
communication network among program families. 
These opportunities were cited again and again as key 
to the students' ability to continue in the arts and 
achieve success. 

The arts do pose particular challenges that are 
different from other areas of talent development. 
Confirming ArtsConnection's previous research on 
artistic talent development, these data show that many 
artistically talented students are poorly served by the 
traditional instruction and testing methods in school 
(Baum, Owen & Oreck, 1997). In fact, some of the 
qualities that are most appreciated in the arts get 
students into trouble in school. In some schools, poor 
grades or other academic deficiencies disqualify students 
from arts activities. School arts programs are rarely 
challenging enough for talented students, and profes- 
sional instruction is expensive. In contrast to sports, or 
outside interests such as chess, computers, debate, or 
science, many parents and teachers do not recognize or 
appreciate the importance of arts study or its relevance 
to success in school and future opportunities. 

These students provide powerful examples of the 
benefits of artistic talent development. All children 
deserve and need arts instruction in school, and for 
some the arts will become a central part of their life. 
The stories told throughout this study remind us of 
what the arts can do to help overcome the challenges 
students and families face. For some, dance or music 
was their anchor amidst family turmoil. For recent 
immigrants and families who moved frequently, the arts 
were a primary means of assimilation into the culture of 
the school and the city. The arts group became a model 

>— — 



for friendships and a source of confidence for students 
entering new schools and new situations. Performances 
were a source of immense pride for students, families, 
and whole communities. For many, classes at studios 
and trips to theaters were unusual experiences outside of 
their immediate neighborhoods and provided a glimpse 
of the larger professional world of the arts and culture. 
Ultimately the skills and discipline students gained, the 
bonds they formed with peers and adults, and the 
rewards they received through instruction and perform- 
ing fueled their talent development journey and helped 
most achieve success both in and outside of school. 

These 23 young people and the more than 2,000 
Young Talent Program graduates were fortunate 
enough to discover and have the chance to develop 
their artistic talents. Unfortunately, they come from just 
10 schools out of over 1,000 schools in New York City. 


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A Monograph on the 
Shakespeare & Company Research Study 


Harvard Project Zero 

from a report produced by the staff of 

the Shakespeare & Company Research Study 1 




For twenty years, Shakespeare & Company, a 
classical professional theater company in Lenox, 
Massachusetts, has been committed to three 
simultaneous purposes: producing the plays of William 
Shakespeare as well as a repertory of other works, 
including new plays; professionally training actors; and 
teaching Shakespeare at elementary, secondary and 
undergraduate levels. The Company's ways of teaching 
Shakespeare evolved from their distinctive approach to 
rehearsal, performance, and their training of actors. This 
approach stands in stark contrast to traditional teaching 
in our public schools. 

A team at Harvard Project Zero began research in 
1995 in order to better understand learning and teaching 
in two of the Company's numerous education programs: 
The Fall Festival of Shakespeare and The National Institute 
on Teaching Shakespeare. Specifically, the team's purpose 
was to identify what the participants were learning and 
the principles, structures, and pedagogy at the founda- 
tion of those learning experiences. 

The study began in July, 1995 and continued 
through two seasons of The National Institute on 
Teaching Shakespeare and The Fall Festival of 
Shakespeare. Project Zero staff visited these school 
programs, observed sessions, attended student perfor- 
mances, interviewed teacher and student participants, 
reviewed written materials, and talked with program 
faculty and administrators. 

The central questions of this study were: 

■ Why do these programs work so well? 

■ What is it participants are actually learning? 

■ What is critical to the success of these programs? 

The research team produced an extensive report 
of findings in 1998. This monograph is drawn from 
that report. 

"Stand and Unfold Yourself" 

The tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark begins 
with these lines. 

Scene 1 . Elsinore. A Platform before the Castle. 

Francisco is at his post. Enter to him Bernardo. 

Bernardo: Who's there? 

Francisco: Nay, answer me; stand, and unfold 

In a rehearsal of Hamlet conducted by one of the 
teaching artists from Shakespeare & Company, these 
lines, seemingly inconsequential, are examined as 
deeply and closely for possible meanings as any of the 
most famous lines from this play. Almost magically, as 
each line, phrase, and word is considered, meanings 
resonate both within the context of the play and in the 
context of the rehearsal. 

"Stand and unfold yourself" has come to epitomize 
the work of Shakespeare & Company's education 
programs. First, that work is physical: it is about 
standing up. But it goes further. The work is also about 
"unfolding" and opening oneself — to the highest level 

1 The study has been conducted by a team of researchers from Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education: Barbara Andrews, 
Ellen Doris, Dawn Ellis, Jenna Moskowitz, Carol Philips, Shree Ram, Jennie Treeger. Steve Seidel is Principal Investigator. Sara Hendren and 
Denise Simon provided editorial assistance for the writing of this monograph. 

Kevin Coleman is Director of Education at Shakespeare & Company. 

Mary Hartman is Director of Education Programs at Shakespeare & Company. Tina Packer is Artistic Director of Shakespeare & Company. 

Dennis Krausnick is Director of Training at Shakespeare & Company. Christopher Sink is Managing Director of Shakespeare & Company. 

This study has been generously supported by the GE Fund and other sources. 

Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education 

321 Longfellow Hall, Appian Way, Cambridge, MA 02138 

phone: 617-495-4342; fax: 617-495-9709; email: URL: 


of literacy, to Shakespeare's language, to the ideas and 
meanings contained in his words, to other people. At 
the same time, it is about standing and embodying the 
work. It is about revealing oneself — taking risks, and 
accepting and embracing the vulnerability inherent in 
those risks. It is about moving away from a sleepy, 
protective posture of being folded up, or folded into 
oneself, and moving toward a tall, open, awake, and 
graceful stance. 


Since 1978, Shakespeare & Company has main- 
tained an education program dedicated to working 
with students and teachers in elementary, middle, high 
schools, and universities. This education program has 
developed simultaneously with the Company's 
approaches to rehearsal, their performance aesthetic, 
and their distinctive actor training program. 2 Many of 
these foundational ideas are captured, albeit briefly, in 
the 1996 mission statement of the education programs. 
It begins with the charge "to bring the classical poetry 
and plays of Shakespeare alive and into the lives of as 
many students and teachers as possible." 3 

The Fall Festival of Shakespeare has grown over the 
past 1 1 years into an annual project involving ten 
schools, approximately 40 artist-teachers and other 
Company members, and over 400 young people. The 
demand from students and schools wanting to partici- 
pate continues to increase, and in 1999, the Company 
initiated a Spring Festival of Shakespeare in the eastern 
part of Massachusetts. The National Institute on 
Teaching Shakespeare was a month-long intensive 
institute for approximately twenty high school litera- 
ture teachers, though teachers of other subject areas 

All of the aspects of the Company's work have evolved with and 
through the work of the Company's founders: Kristin Linklater, 
Dennis Krausnick, and Tina Packer. Linklater 's approach to voice 
training for actors, which has an international reputation, and 
Packer's ideas about the function of theater were the original 
impetus for the creation of the Company. 

Coleman, K., Hartman, M., and Lee, L. (1996). The Mission 
Statement of the Shakespeare & Company Education Programs. 
Internal Document. Lenox, MA; Shakespeare & Company. 

also participated. A recent follow-up study of partici- 
pants and the influence of their Institute experience on 
their teaching 2.2-3.5 years later reveals that benefits 
"continued or increased in the areas of teaching 
Shakespeare, teaching other texts, educational philoso- 
phy, and relationships with students (Philips, 1999)." 4 

During the twenty years since their establishment, 
there has been steady growth in the Company's 
educational programs, as measured in both the range of 
programs offered and the demand for them. These 
programs are a major commitment for the Company, 
and command a budget roughly equal to that of their 
entire performance season. Today, Shakespeare & 
Company's education programs have a budget of 
approximately $700,000. Schools and school districts 
return year after year to request the Company's 
programs. Students in the high schools that are part of 
The Fall Festival of Shakespeare usually choose to 
participate for three or four years. Many of the artists 
working as staff/faculty in the education programs stay 
on for many years despite the uncertain and sporadic 
nature of work in arts education. 

Few arts education partnerships between arts 
organizations and schools have the benefit of two 
decades of continuous work and evolution. This study 
was an opportunity to explore the workings of a 
mature, developed, and highly successful arts educa- 
tion partnership. 

Why Worry About Studying Shakespeare? 

Several factors in American public education 
suggest the special relevance of Shakespeare & 
Company's educational programs. First, the plays of 
William Shakespeare are at the core of our high school 
literature curriculum, perhaps the only literature to 
occupy a place in the curriculum of virtually every high 
school in the country. At some point, nearly every 
graduate of an American high school will have been 
expected to read at least one of Shakespeare's plays. 

4 Philips, C. (1999). Teachers' Voices: A Case Study of Professional 
Development Associated with the National Institute on Teaching 
Shakespeare. Unpublished document. 



It would be hard to make this claim of any other author 
or specific body of work. 

The team found no significant research investigat- 
ing the success of most high schools in introducing 
students to these plays in ways that promote deep 
understanding and a long-term relationship between 
the students and Shakespeare's work. It certainly 
appears that the overwhelming majority of high school 
students have little deep engagement with the plays 
while in high school: indeed, most students find 
Shakespeare's work irrelevant and inaccessible. They 
leave high school with little understanding of 
Shakespeare's accomplishments or their own capacities 
to enter into those plays, as readers or audience, and to 
draw meaning and pleasure from them. This is not true, 
however, of the nearly 800 hundred students who 
participated in this study. On the contrary, they 
reported with virtual unanimity that they developed a 
strong sense of their own capacities to understand and 
engage deeply with Shakespeare's plays. 

Bringing Students to the Highest Levels of Literacy 

Considerable documentation, not least the notori- 
ously poor results of far too many public school 
students on standardized tests of reading skills, indi- 
cates that there is reason to worry that our high school 
students are not graduating as confident readers. There 
is little reason for optimism that many students are 
accomplished in understanding difficult texts, whether 
they be from the world's literature or from a physics 
text. Presently, our schools struggle to make sure all 
students master the levels of literacy involved in only 
basic decoding of texts. By contrast, reading, enjoying, 
and understanding any of Shakespeare's plays is a task 
that could easily be considered a hallmark of the 
highest levels of literacy. 

How, then, is it that Shakespeare & Company's 
programs work so well to help various levels of 
readers enter the difficult and even cryptic language 
of Shakespeare? 

One high school student who participated in the 
Fall Festival of Shakespeare provided a useful perspective 

on the use of rehearsal techniques in studying 
Shakespeare. "In school we're just reading over the 
book: reading it to get to the next chapter, never with 
feeling in it or gratification. When I walked out of 
classes reading Shakespeare, I used to be confused as to 
what it was about. After you walk away from these 
rehearsals, you can really understand the scenes because 
of the many techniques used to go over the various 
interpretations of the text." Another student from a 
different high school remarked, "When Shakespeare & 
Company makes us go through things word by word if 
we don't understand them, it is weird how much you 
learn, and what doesn't leave your head." 

Many participants also noted that their experience 
as active readers of complex texts in these programs was 
relevant well beyond the specific work they did with 
Shakespeare's plays — in entering math and physics texts 
as well as approaching other literature. One student 
described the text of these plays as a puzzle to "frag- 
ment, take apart, and fit together again." The serious 
attention Shakespeare & Company gives to the imagi- 
native, emotional, and intellectual responses of students 
to these complex texts is the foundation of a pedagogy 
that embraces the most difficult texts as challenges well 
within the capacity of typical adolescents. 

Refusing to Simplify 

Tina Packer, the Artistic Director of Shakespeare & 
Company, once reminded a group she was addressing 
that "words are older than we are." The respect for 
words — the worlds of meaning they contain — and a 
desire not to diminish or simplify those words drives 
the Company's approach to exploring complex texts. 
This respect for complexity is, perhaps, the deceptively 
simple core of a pedagogy. The texts they work with 
are so complex that most teachers feel compelled to 
simplify them in order for them to be understood or 

In every aspect of their pedagogy, the Shakespeare 
& Company artist-teachers guide their students away 
from the idea that there is one "right" interpretation of 
Shakespeare's meaning or one "right" way to play a 


character or scene. Through the many exercises they've 
designed and their carefully considered patterns of 
questioning, they turn their students back toward 
themselves as the source of their own understandings. 
They want their students to locate their understandings 
in what sense and meaning the text has for them "in 
this moment" and not in some notion of what they 
think the text "should" mean. 

Throughout the interviews conducted for this 
study, students articulated their own perceptions of the 
complexity of Shakespeare's language and plays. One 
high school student, discussing how Shakespeare 
developed multiple facets to his characters, stated that 
these characters "all seem real in terms of what they are 
doing, and they have their own issues. Because every- 
thing [about the characters] is complex and real, totally 
filled to the brim with emotion." Another student 
noted, "If you really read through all of the [plays], you 
come across all of life's major issues and problems." 
And another student suggested, "If you really look at 
what it says, it tells you everything. If you just take it for 
what you are saying, and not explore its whole worth, 
then that's not true to Shakespeare." Mary Hartman, 
Director of Education Programs, agrees: "It is through 
the language that all these categories of experience 
(physical, imaginative, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, 
aesthetic) are integrated. We respect the complexity, but 
it is the specific attention to the words that focuses 
thoughts and gives thinking its energy." 

Neither the words nor our relationship to them — 
our sense of their meanings — is straightforward or 
simple. Hartman suggests that the richness of 
Shakespeare's language is, quite possibly, a reflection 
of the role of language in Elizabethan culture. 
"Shakespeare was writing in a time that may have 
been more linguistically rich than ours and, in turn, 
may have inspired a richer experience of language." 
She notes that Shakespeare used no stage directions 
in his plays and that his theaters had virtually no 
scenery. "Everything had to be communicated 
through the language — setting, character, action, 
emotions, the story." 

"What keeps it complex, moment by moment, is 
that it is poetry." Kevin Coleman, Director of Education 
insists. "The individual words keep it complex. The 
complexity is inherent in the text moment by moment, 
word by word." 

Coleman notes that language functions quite 
differently in our contemporary American culture. "The 
language we are most familiar with tries to pin things 
down. This is why we feel it is so important to work 
with poetic language: poetic language versus scientific 
language, or even hopeless language or slang. Poetic 
language is expansive and opens up. Scientific language 
reduces. In our over-emphasis on science and math in 
schools, in our love affair with technology, we have left 
our imaginations impoverished." 

Coleman's deep concern resonates, especially in the 
context of the approach to reading Shakespeare taken in 
many American classrooms, where reading the play may 
be an assignment, but there is little hope that students, 
in fact, will do it. Instead, teachers bring videos to class, 
and the video format becomes the method of sharing 
the play — an uneasy truce between our desire for 
students to experience the plays and our confusion over 
how to help them actually enter the text directly. 

As Lisa Schneier, a high school Language Arts 
teacher, suggests, "[W]e organize subject matter into a 
neat series of steps which assumes a profound unifor- 
mity among students. We sand away at the interesting 
edges of subject matter until it is so free from its 
natural complexities, so neat, that there is not a crevice 
left as an opening. All that is left is to hand it to them, 
scrubbed and smooth, so that they can view it as 
outsiders (Schneier, quoted in Duckworth, 1990). 5 

Teaching and Learning for Understanding 

The Company's approach to teaching Shakespeare 
is also an elegant exemplar of teaching for deep 
understanding. As such, it deserves consideration from 
any teacher seriously committed to exploring pedagogy 
built on the ideas put forth by Perkins, Gardner, 

Duckworth, E. (1991). Twenty-four, Forty- two, I Love You: 
Keeping it Complex. Harvard Education Review. 61:1, 1-24. 




Perrone and their colleagues in the Teaching for 
Understanding Project (Wiske, 1998). 6 According to 
these authors, understanding can only truly be assessed, 
and, for that matter, even achieved, through perfor- 
mance. Perkins ( 1998, p. 41) argues, "First, to gauge a 
person's understanding at a given time, ask the person 
to do something that puts the understanding to work — 
explaining, solving a problem, building an argument, 
constructing a product. Second, what learners do in 
response not only shows their level of current under- 
standing but very likely advances it. By working 
through their understanding in response to a particular 
challenge, they come to understand better." 7 

In the pedagogy of the Fall Festival of Shakespeare, 
the performance of understanding is literal and, in a 
sense, high stakes — there will be several hundred people 
out in the auditorium watching. Of course, the purpose 
of the Festival performances is not critical judgment, 
but the sharing of the experience of Shakespeare's great 
works. However, these performances are not simply 
school-room exercises: they are authentic acts of 
communication, culture and community. When they 
are successful, they are demonstrations of deep under- 
standing that make the complex and difficult world of 
Shakespeare's texts lucid, vibrant, relevant and moving 
to everyone in the auditorium. 

Moving toward Authentic Projects in the Literature 

One of our concerns in this study was to examine 
just how the Company's education programs represent 
alternatives to contemporary schooling and in what 
ways they reflect elements of the last decades of 
education reform in America. As one of the oldest and 
most fully developed of the educational theater 
programs in the country, Shakespeare & Company 
offers lessons for other reformers and alternatives to 

6 Wiske, M. S. (1998). Teaching for Understanding: Linking Research 
with Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 

Perkins, D. (1998). The Intelligent Eye: Learning to Think by 
Looking at Art. Santa Monica, CA: Getty Center for Education in 
the Arts. 

traditional schooling. One perspective on the 
Company's work in schools relates to project-based 
learning, in this case in the literature curriculum. 

Project-based learning has roots in the philosophy 
of John Dewey and the educational experiments 
pioneered by William Kirkpatrick, Dewey's contempo- 
rary and colleague from Teachers College in New York 
City. Dewey, Kirkpatrick, and countless others since, 
including many at Project Zero, have found in project- 
based learning an alternative to the desk-bound, 
transmission-based approach of most traditional 
classrooms. With projects, students get to work on 
solving authentic problems, working in groups, using 
the materials and methods of the professions, and 
creating products or performances. 

In a framework for considering the "rigor and 
relevance" of project-based learning, Steinberg (1998) 8 
identifies six elements-authenticity, academic rigor, 
applied learning, active exploration, adult relationships, 
assessment practices-that she argues are critical to the 
design of powerful projects. In brief, this study revealed 
significant evidence that Shakespeare & Company's work 
points to an affirmative answer to each of the questions 
stated below, suggesting that their work stands as an 
important model of rigorous project-based learning. 


■ Is it a problem or question that might actually be 
tackled by an adult at work or in the community? 

Academic rigor 

■ Does it challenge students to use methods of 
inquiry central to one or more disciplines? (e.g., to 
think like a scientist) 

Applied learning 

■ Does the project lead students to acquire and use 
competencies expected in high performance work 
organizations (e.g. teamwork, appropriate use of 
technology, problem-solving, communications)? 

8 Steinberg, A. (1998). Real Learning, Real Work: School-To-Work as 
High School Reform. New York: Routledge. 

"stand and unfold yourself" 

Active exploration 

■ Are students expected to communicate what they are 
learning through presentations and performances? 

Adult relationships 

■ Do students have an opportunity to work closely 
with at least one adult with relevant expertise 
and experience? 

Assessment practices 

■ Do students reflect regularly on their learning, 
using clear project criteria that they have helped to 
set and do adults from outside the classroom help 
students develop a sense of the real world stan- 
dards for this type of work (1998)? 

Learning in Four Realms at Once 

Participants in the Fall Festival of Shakespeare and 
the National Institute on Teaching Shakespeare identi- 
fied four major realms of learning they experienced in 
these programs: 

■ learning about Shakespeare and his language, and 
ways of reading the text of his plays 

■ learning about acting 

■ learning about working in creative communities 

■ learning about oneself: linking self-knowledge to 
social and intellectual development. 

The diagram below suggests the way in which these 
realms of learning emanate from the many experiences 
participants had with each other and the artist-teachers 
in workshops, rehearsals and performances. Not 








surprisingly, the research revealed that the realms 
overlap and interconnect. 

Specific aspects of these realms are delineated in 
greater detail in the following four sections. 

Learning About Shakespeare and His Language 

". . . and there was this unfolding, this flowering. . . " 

A 1995 National Institute participant describing her 
experience exploring a passage from Much Ado About Nothing 

■ Shakespeare's plays are engaging, powerful, funny, 
moving, provocative, and full of personal relevance. 
His work, upon careful and active reading and explora- 
tion, is "universal and timeless;" Shakespeare is not, as 
many previously thought, a "dusty, old dead guy." 

■ Reading Shakespeare's plays is an active process of 
interpretation, and the plays themselves are open to 
divergent interpretations. Indeed, it is in exploring 
divergent interpretations that the complexity and 
richness of the plays becomes most apparent. 

■ Shakespeare's language is full of ambiguity and 
multiple meanings — a reflection of human 

■ When reading Shakespeare, one can build the 
confidence as well as strategies for reading many 
other kinds of complex texts (mathematical 
theorems, for example), but most especially poetry 
and drama. 

Learning About Acting 

"Shakespeare wrote plays; actors were called players; 
they played in a playhouse. Play is meeting him on 
his terms. He wrote this stuff to be played." 

Kevin Coleman 

■ Acting, or embodying the language, is a very 
effective way to understand what is happening in 
a dramatic text. 

■ Interpretations and understandings of a text are 
not static and, in fact, can evolve and change 

frequently. Further, one can adopt a disposition to 
seek out deeper understandings through active 
engagement with the interpretations of others and 
a resistance to settling on a single interpretation. 

■ Acting requires making sense of language on 
multiple levels (narrative, psychological, emotional). 

■ That acting requires embodying a text and, 
therefore, involves the body, voice, feelings, text, 
action, movement, self-awareness, and awareness 
of others. 

■ That one's imagination is an essential tool in visualiz- 
ing and, in turn, understanding a dramatic text. 

Learning About Working in Creative Communities 

"Everyone counts." Kevin Coleman 

■ A strong sense of community can be developed 
with people who share a common interest in 
Shakespeare by struggling together to make sense 
of his plays, especially through the challenging 
approach of acting the texts. 

■ Each individual has an important contribution to 
make to the work of the group. 

■ Rules, high expectations, and discipline are an 
important element of the life of a creative 

■ Inclusion is a powerful and positive principle, espe- 
cially as it validates one's own presence in a group. 

■ In a challenging collective project, each individual 
may well be pushed beyond his or her sense of 
personal limits. In this collective effort, each person 
deserves support and attention from the group, and 
the ultimate success of the group's effort is depen- 
dent on providing that support and attention. 

■ By suspending judgment and fostering open 
communication, especially about feelings and 
conflicting ideas, it can be easier to keep an open 
mind to other viewpoints and new perspectives. 

"stand and unfold yourself" 

Learning About Oneself as a Learner 

"I have opened myself up to risks, rejections, and 
criticisms; life is sweeter." 

1995 National Institute participant 

■ Knowing and trusting one's ideas and feelings and 
keeping one's mind open to diverse and contradic- 
tory ideas is integrally linked to personal growth 
and intellectual development. 

■ Learning about other people's ideas, feelings, and 
experiences (including characters in plays) pro- 
vides perspectives that support coming to deeper 
self-knowledge and awareness. 

■ Treating oneself well, and being treated well by 
others- with kindness and generosity-increases the 
likelihood of and willingness to take risks. 

■ One can take approaches to problem-solving that 
were used effectively in rehearsal and adapt and use 
them in other areas of life. 

■ Producing and performing plays, just as most 
vocations, require managing limited time, multiple 
responsibilities, and competing demands. 

How Can Artmaking Inform Teaching? 

Through extensive interviews and conversations 
with the faculty and directors of the Company's 
education programs, it became clear that the princi- 
ples underlying their program design and pedagogy 
came significantly from their own work, as individuals 
and as a company, in making theater. This is not 
surprising. Their work as artist-teachers in schools is 
constantly juxtaposed with the demands of preparing 
and mounting a season of performances. They move 
seamlessly, if not effortlessly, from acting to directing 
to training professional actors to teaching adolescents 
or adults to managing and administrating — some- 
times all in a single week or even a single day. 

Listed below are the principles that drive the 
practices of Shakespeare & Company's education 
programs. These principles are extracted from inter- 

views with Company administrators and the artist- 
teachers, and discerned from extensive observations of 
rehearsals, classes, workshops, and performances. 

■ Shakespeare's plays articulate virtually every 
significant aspect of human nature, human 
relations and emotional experience. 

■ Studying Shakespeare can and should be, simulta- 
neously, an investigation into the complexity of 
human relations, the capacity of language (written 
and performed) to express a very broad range of 
human experience, and the glory and pleasure of 
classic narratives and dramas. 

■ Studying Shakespeare's plays is an enterprise of 
extraordinary complexity and, fundamentally, an 
interpretive process — a process in which each 
reader/actor must make personal sense of the texts. 

■ Acting the plays is a way of arriving at insights, 
making connections, and developing appreciation 
and understandings of Shakespeare that are not 
readily available through lecture, formal discourse, 
or silent reading. 

■ Acting is a process that, though extremely demand- 
ing, can be learned by anyone. 

■ The deepest understanding is dependent on the 
learner subjectively valuing the experience (of 
reading, acting, engaging with the text) as it is 
happening within and for oneself. Such under- 
standing should not be seen in relation to an 
external reward (a grade, a teacher's approval) or to 
the idea of finding an objective "right answer." 

■ Participants must choose to participate as a 
pre-condition to learning. The most valuable 
learning happens when the learner chooses and 
desires to learn. 

These pedagogical principles have evolved over 
twenty years. In this process, particular qualities of the 
Company's approach to making theater have had major 
influence on their approach to professional actor 
training and the teaching of Shakespeare in schools. 



Some of the most important of those artistic perspec- 
tives and practices include: 

1. Valuing "truthfulness." Guiding one's actions in 
rehearsal and performance by a rigorous awareness 
of what feels "true" or "honest" or "genuine" at that 

2. "Encouraging openness to new possibilities." 
Constant effort to resist the temptation to find and 
settle on one way of playing a scene, line, or moment. 

3. "Presence." Constant effort to be fully present with 
each person on the stage and in the room. 

4. "Playing" Shakespeare. Actors in Elizabethan 
England were called "players." The aim here is to 
approach acting Shakespeare's plays in a spirit of 
play. Fun is a crucial element, as are the rules that 
guide this play and the discipline required of 
serious players in any setting. 

5. "Permission to Fail." Everyone shares responsibility 
to take risks and support others in taking risks. 
This means, first and foremost, that failure is not 
only quite acceptable, but necessary and expected. 

6. Generosity. Everyone shares responsibility to 
approach the work and their colleagues with a 
spirit of generosity, of offering to help, give, and 
share whatever they have or perceive may be 
needed by others. 

7. Visceral language. A commitment to work physi- 
cally with the text in order to explore its visceral 
qualities and the meanings that may only be 
discovered through "embodying" it. Further, a 
celebration of the integration of intellectual, 
physical, emotional, imaginative, and spiritual 
responses to each word of the text. 

8. "Freeing the natural voice." A commitment to 
employing training techniques with the objective 
of a voice in direct contact with emotional 
impulse, shaped by intellect but not inhibited by it. 

The study also identified the following conditions 
as essential to acting as practiced by the Company and 
as a mode of learning: 

■ a safe environment (physical and emotional), 

■ an environment in which all ideas are considered 
and valued — where hard work is mixed with 
humor and playfulness, 

■ a discipline and work ethic that fosters a sense of 
personal responsibility to the work and the group, 

■ supportive and respectful relationships among 
everyone in the group, 

■ opportunities for learners to find personal points 
of engagement and to make choices about signifi- 
cant aspects of their work and learning, 

■ frequent and ample opportunities for learners to be 
actively engaged in the various aspects of the work 
of acting (including watching, listening, and 
responding to others' work), 

■ support and respect for the subjective knowledge 
of the learner and the individual connection that 
the learner makes to the text, the play studied, and 
the work process, 

■ appreciation for the contributions scholarship 
makes to understanding Shakespeare, and opportu- 
nities to integrate insights from scholarship with 
insights from acting the text, 

■ opportunities to perform for witnesses (artist- 
teachers, fellow cast members, classmates, audiences), 

■ opportunities to reflect on one's work, both 
individually and collectively. 


What are the Qualities of the Artist-Teachers of 
Shakespeare & Company? 

1 . They are all artists. 

2. They share a common aesthetic — a common body 
of knowledge about Shakespeare and the related 
disciplines necessary to perform his works. 

3. They have a good working knowledge and abiding 
curiosity about the plays. 

4. They have a proven progression within the 
rehearsal process that they follow or around which 
they improvise; in turn, this progression gives form 
and depth to their activities. 

5. They have co-workers, co-directors, more experi- 
enced practitioners, and master teachers to learn 
from and consult with regularly. 

6. They are not intimidated by strong emotion and 
high energy. 

7. They are infinitely interested in the students, and 
in creating a meaningful educational experience, 
and are committed to the goals of the program. 

8. They challenge themselves as they challenge their 
students; and specifically for the artist-teachers in 
schools, their students see them performing or 
directing during the summer season at Shakespeare 
& Company. They succeed and fail in public. 

9. They develop strong relationships with the school 
administrators, teachers, and parents. 

1 0. They have access to "experts" — fight directors, 
technical directors, sound, light, and costume 
designers, and dance instructors. 

I I . They remember what it was like to be in high 

1 2. They are in the schools for a limited period of time 
for a special project. 

Developed by Kevin Coleman, Shakespeare & Company 

How Can More Adolescents Have This Experience? 

This study found that a pedagogical approach 
built on the artistic practices of theatrical rehearsal and 
performance was highly successful in engaging adoles- 
cents and adults in the study of Shakespeare's plays. 
Since these plays represent a core element of the high 
school literature curriculum and, in a sense, are among 
the ultimate challenges to both high school students 
and teachers, the success of Shakespeare & Company's 
programs raise important and difficult questions about 
how more adolescents can have similar experiences. 

The following questions, though somewhat 
specific to this situation, are the kinds of questions that 
come up in consideration of virtually any 
replication/adaptation effort. 

■ What training, support, and experience are needed 
to create new programs that are faithful to the 
philosophy and design of these models? 

■ Shakespeare & Company's education programs 
are embedded in a rich community of artists 
engaged in professional productions. Can people 
working in settings with far more limited profes- 
sional and artistic resources still create and 
sustain effective programs? 

■ Starting new arts education programs is expensive. 
Can financial assistance be secured to induce the 
kind of training and support needed to create 
programs modeled on this work? 

■ What is a reasonable expectation for the number 
of years it might take for a new program to fulfill 
its potential? 

■ How can a group insure that the creation of 
programs modeled on the Company's educational 
pedagogies and approaches is a creative learning 
process and not simply an imitative one? 

The study further identified conditions that are 
important to (though no guarantee of) the success of 
efforts to support replication/adaptation. Those 
conditions are: 



supportive local organizations (theaters, arts 
agencies, and schools, for example) to insure that 
the individuals who commit to this work are given 
institutional support, 

a community of artists and educators with an 
inclination toward this kind of work, 

a community with an interest in the arts and arts 
education, one which will value and support 
innovative arts programs, 

financial support, both for the new program and 
for a continued relationship with Shakespeare & 
Company staff. 


The realms of learning described by the partici- 
pants in these programs offer another view of what the 
arts can create, contribute, and teach when carried out 
in favorable circumstances by well trained artist- 
teachers. The programs created by Shakespeare & 
Company provide examples of excellence in profes- 
sional development, teaching, and learning to be 
studied and adapted by other artist-teachers, classroom 
teachers, and teacher-trainers. 

Further, they provide powerful evidence that on 
the highest levels of literacy, in the realms of social 
and personal growth and development, and in the 
development of high-order thinking skills, the arts 
provide an ideal setting for multi-faceted and pro- 
found learning experiences. 

Why the Arts Matter in Education 


Just What Do Children Learn 
When They Create an Opera 


PACE, Harvard Graduate School of Education 




At the turn of the last century, the educator 
Francis M. Parker wrote for a broad public 
that all deep learning was "expressive", and 
combined "the manifestation of thought and emo- 
tion." [ 1 ] The philosopher, John Dewey, carried the 
point a step further by arguing for the central role of 
the arts in all general education. 

In a culture more inclined to value the immediate 
over the eternal and the applicable over the aesthetic, 
we have frequently neglected their arguments. In many 
American schools that claim to teach the arts, children 
receive instruction no more than an hour a week for 
the thirty-two weeks they are in school. 

However, a century later, contemporary educators 
are reclaiming Parker's and Dewey's arguments by using 
avenues different from philosophical argument. In the 
last few years we have seen not only the creation of 
national arts standards and the collection and reporting 
of the National Assessment of Educational Progress 
data on American students' performance in the arts, but 
the appearance of a number of research studies 
suggesting that there are substantial benefits to be 
gained from arts education. [2] 

Having begun to demonstrate that arts education 
matters, we are in a position to muster the understand- 
ing and resources to ask the next questions: Why does 
involvement in music, theater performance, or the 
visual arts spark engagement with school, higher levels 
of academic performance and increased participation 
in community service? Under what conditions do the 
arts have these effects? These are difficult questions, but 
they are the keys to gaining the deeper understandings 
that will permit us to explain the importance of arts 
education to a public that is just beginning to listen. 
Moreover, answering them will give us the capacity to 
design quality programs likely to yield lasting effects. 

Lifting the Lid: Understanding Why Arts 
Education Has Effects 

The customary approach to demonstrating the effects 
of arts education is to select two groups of students, 
preferably similar in their backgrounds. One group 
receives no formal arts education, while the second 
group receives arts training in forums such as the 
addition of music to their curriculum, the integration of 
visual arts into their social studies curriculum, or a series 
of artist residencies. Following that intervention, we 
identify what distinguishes the students who have had 
arts education from their peers. 

S (Time 1) — > No arts education > S (Time 2) 

S (Time 1) — > ARTS EDUCATION — > S (Time 2) 

While helpful as far as it goes, this approach tells us 
nothing about the specific effects that arts education has 
and why those particular effects occur. 

For instance, imagine we find that, as a group, 
students involved in an intensive visual arts program 
perform better in school than their peers. What can we 
claim about the specific effects of visual arts learning on 
academic performance? If these students also perform 
better on academic tests, and succeed in the next level of 
education, we might claim that their visual arts experi- 
ence has conveyed general learning strategies and 
understandings. But suppose we find that these students 
are better at reading diagrams and graphs, and doing 
geometry and that doing well in geometry places them in 
higher level math classes with peers who are more 
invested in school ? What if all that distinguishes these 
students, beyond their higher grades, is regular atten- 
dance rates? Do we want to argue that visual arts training 
lent them persistence? Do we consider whether schools 
give higher grades to good citizens? Depending how we 
answer these questions, our understanding of the effects 
of visual arts learning would be dramatically different. 

The rest of this paper discusses the particular role 
that qualitative research can play in providing a deeper, 
if not yet conclusive, understanding of what effects arts 


education programs have and why these effects may 
occur. The focus of this work is a multi-year study of 
"Creating Original Opera (COO)," a program in which 
elementary students form a company to write and 
produce an original opera. 

Beginning with "Gregarious" Moments 

In a preliminary evaluation of the Creating Original 
Opera program, teachers made the claim that "the opera 
makes students work harder and smarter." To under- 
stand what they meant, we worked closely with teachers, 
in observing classes and examining tapes and transcripts 
of student work. We asked teachers to identify instances 
of learning that they believed were specific to the opera. 
They pointed out situations such as the following in 
which a teacher and two students (Wendell and Anna), 
along with two other students (SI and S2) developed a 
set of feasible solutions for a changing set: 

T(eacher): So let me re-state the problem for you. 
All right, the fact is that we are going to have two 

SI: The library. 

T: The library, and the other one is. . .? The what? 

S2: The playground. 

T: The playground. 

T: Now, they are going to be happening in the same 
space on stage. Now we don't have a high place to 
hang these things from. . . I need some of your 

A: Well, you know how you have those maps up on 
the wall there? (she points) If we could just find 
something to sort of hang it from, and then pull it 
down each time and then when you're finished you 
can just pull it down and... 

T: You mean like a shade? 

A: Yeah. 

T: OK, let's think about that. That wall is a folding 
wall they open and close frequently... 

A: So it might have to be a little forward. . . 

T: . . .The whole idea of something that pulls down 
and goes back up is a neat idea, but the idea of 
putting something... across the wall might not 
work. Does anyone else have another idea of what 
we could do? Wendell? 

W: We could take like a long strip of wire or 
something like that and get a piece of paper, and 
get a big roll and like a garbage can kind of thing, 
but bigger, and we could staple the design on it, 
and keep rolling it when we want a different design 
on it. Like if you want a different set design. . .and 
then if you don't want the people to see what 
you're doing you just close the curtain and. . . 

T: Do we have curtains? 

W: No, but I mean, you could just turn the lights 
out or something. 

T: Oh, blackout. . .go to black. 

W: Yeah. [3] 

When we asked what the teacher saw in this 
episode, she said unhesitatingly, "They just keep 
working toward a solution. The opera's so... gregari- 
ous." In short, she had a theory about what students 
were learning from the opera: something about 
persistent joint work. She also had a sense of why that 
persistence mattered: somehow it created an ecology in 
which quality was a central issue. 

Our challenge as researchers was, in part, to follow 
up on that intuition by examining what exactiy 
happened in those "gregarious" moments and asking 
why gregariousness should improve, not merely 
animate, what students were able to do. 

What is learned in an opera company 

To pursue these questions, we selected four class- 
rooms in which the COO program was fully imple- 
mented (e.g., classroom and specialist teachers were 
involved, teachers were trained in the program, there was 
adequate classroom time, and so forth). Since we were 
developing an understanding of "gregariousness" and 
why it mattered, we wanted maximum insight into the 


fine workings of opera classrooms. In a sense, we wanted 
to take the back off the watch and see how the fine cogs 
and wheels produced movement and change. 

To help us gain such insight, we developed a set of 
qualitative approaches to collecting data. These included 
classroom observations, transcripts of teacher and 
student interviews, and student ethnographies, logs of 
important activities and collections of student work. 
From these sources we selected moments of shared 
problem-solving that we compared to similar episodes 
from non-opera settings, such as working in small 
groups to answer an open-ended math problem or to 
develop an oral presentation on Native American leaders 
in social studies. By studying and coding a sub-sample 
of this data, we developed a set of features that distin- 
guished many of the opera episodes of whole class 
discussion from problem-solving in other contexts. 
Using the larger pool of episodes, we could see whether 
or not these contrasts in collaborative work held up. 
These initial findings are summarized in Table 1. 

These data suggested that students in the opera 
setting participate in more substantive ways in group 
interactions then students in the alternative settings. In 
addition, these data demonstrate that during opera 

Table 1: Collaborative Interactions across Opera and 
Non-opera Contexts 


Non-opera Context 

Opera Context 

% students participating 



% students taking 
substantive turns 



% of student turns 
with questions 



% student turns with links 
back to previous comments 



% student turns with 
constructive critique of others 



% student turns with 
revisions of a student's own 
earlier ideas or proposals 



% student turns with links 
back to a long term theme or 
issue for the group 



sessions, students operate in a more cohesive way, 
connecting what they say to others' turns, their own 
earlier comments, and to issues that have a long- 
running history for the group. 

Interestingly, this overall pattern holds in three of 
the four classrooms studied. It breaks down in the 
fourth, where students were more often a work force 
doing teachers' bidding than a company of individuals 
in charge of making choices and decisions. In that 
classroom, the data from opera contexts is no different 
from that of non-opera settings. 

Finally when we look across three time periods (Tl = 
outset of the opera process, T2 - midpoint, T3 = the 
week of the final production) another equally interesting 
pattern becomes apparent. The cross-time comparisons 
show that within opera contexts these substantive and 
cohesive collaborative behaviors actually increase in the 
large majority of the categories. This pattern suggests that 
the opera work is not simply one which is more con- 
ducive to joint work, but one in which collaborative 
interaction grows over time. 

Thus, we go beyond the observation that the opera 
experience produces students who collaborate effectively 
to solve artistic problems. We can begin to specify what it 
is that students learn about collaboration in the search 
for quality. In the context of continuing and well- 
implemented opera work, groups of students become 
increasingly expert at active participation in the form of 
taking turns and asking questions. Moreover, students 
become increasingly expert at coherent work towards 
quality. That is, they build off what others propose. 
Student remarks link back to earlier turns, they can make 
constructive comments, and they can edit their own 
earlier suggestions in the light of an evolving discussion. 
Finally, they can see their current conversation as linking 
back to, or shedding light on, an idea or issue that they 
have taken up earlier and are continuing to address. 

This phenomenon of sustained and coherent 
collaboration is apparent not only to observing 
researchers, but to students themselves. Students are 
keenly aware of the way in which joint creation defines 
their opera work. When asked to describe important 
choices, decisions, and insights ("ah-ha's"), they quite 


Table 2: Longitudinal Changes in Collaborative Interactions across Three Classrooms 

% students participating 










% students taking substantive turns 










% of student turns with questions 










% student turns with links back to 

previous comments 










% student turns with constructive 

critique of others 










% student turns with revisions of a 

student's own earlier ideas or proposals 










% student turns with links back to a 

long term theme or issue for the group 










typically, focus their responses on gradually evolving 
solutions to an artistic challenge. Here, for example, is 
an elementary school student explaining how composers 
and writers developed the concept and structure of a 
song that had long eluded them. It is a song to be sung 
to children trapped in a natural history museum by 
dinosaurs who come to life and warn them to save the 
earth or meet extinction. 

See, see, we knew that we wanted to have a song, you 
know, where the dinosaurs come to life and warn the 
kids that they better not fight or they will become 
extinct just like they did. And so we made up this 
tune, and we were fooling around with it on the 
keyboard. And Marcus keeps switching like the 
background beat — you know, like disco or Latin, or 
Caribbean — and we were getting angry with him. 
Then he won't quit and he makes it into this, like this 
rap, and going "Hs- shahs - shh shh." And it was 
good. So we like started to snap and slide around. 
And then we took it to the writers who said, "No, no 
rap, no way." And then we got back at them and said 
that it made the dinosaurs seem cool, like they knew 
what was up, so the kids should listen to them. [4] 

Why Does Coherent Collaboration Matter? 

Having identified what it is that students may be 
learning as part of opera sessions, we must still deal 

with the question of why it matters. What do these 
findings teach us about how or what arts education 
contributes to learning? 

Students' narratives, like the dinosaur story above, 
were telling. They hinted at a possible link between 
coherent collaboration and the achievement of more 
than "ho-hum" solutions to artistic challenges. To pursue 
this possibility we returned to all the instances of 
sustained, joint discussions that were about solving an 
artistic problem in the opera, such as composing a song 
or not firing a set designer. Early on in the opera process, 
as the script and songs are first written, increasing 
numbers of self-contained (i.e., occurring all in one 
session) collaborative discussions occur, for example: 

The classroom teacher (JB) and the writers are going 
over a moment in the script where one of the kids in 
the opera is about to stomp out of the clubhouse. JB 
asks a student to read aloud from the script as it 
stands in draft: 

S:( reading from the script as "Casey") 

"Well I'm not chicken and I'm not going! Yay." 

Other students correct in unison: "Yeah." 

Student continues to read from the script: 
"She has been acting like a brat!" 

Other student: "Isn't that in the wrong place?" 



Teacher: "No. After uh. . . after uoohh! 
Well, I wanna. . .Then. . .Okay. 

Casey leaves here. Good. I'm glad you caught 
that... I missed that. Okay." 

Teacher reads the corrected version of the script, 
checking it with the students: 

"Let's go. C'mon. C'mon, chickens. Well, I'm not a 
chicken and I'm not going. Yeah." 

Teacher asks "And then (referring to the need for 
better stage directions) Casey kind of storms out. . . 
instead of leaves. . .?" 

Student: "In a temper tantrum. 

Other student: "Casey storms..." 

Teacher: You like storms out. . .or. . . 

Other student: Or blazes out. . . 

Teacher: Blazes out. Okay. What's "blazing" 
telling the director? 

Student: That he's furious... Like she's thinking 
"Why do I have to be in a club with a bunch 
of chickens?" 

Teacher: Okay. So when the writers do their 
subtext, I think that's probably what the characters 
will say. . . Okay. . .Casey. . . We can put a little stage 
direction here. So do you think it should read 

Student: Storms out. 

Teacher: Storms or blazes? 

Other student: Blazes. 

Teacher: Blazes isn't a word that we usually use for 
moving, but it works here. Okay. 

Students call out simultaneously "zooms," "storms," 
blazers, zooms . 

Teacher: Zooms just means to be fast but we don't 
want that... 

(Student voices get louder, yelling "storms out", 
"blazes", "We want blazes", "Storms out! Storms out!") 

Teacher: Storms out. 

Student: She shuts slams the door and... 

Student: Thunders out. 

Teacher: Thunders out! [5] 

An Evolving Meaning 

A second type of collaborative discussion, one 
that evolves over time, occurs with increasing fre- 
quency as the opera work enters its final stages. It was 
evident in one classroom where students were creating 
an opera about how a test divides a group of friends 
into gifted and ordinary students. The students attend 
a school that uses such a test to select participants in a 
gifted and talented program, and the test is very much 
on every third graders mind. For dramatic effect the 
students create a character, Charlie, who comes from 
"away" and who is caught unawares by the test. 
Initially, they simply pick Kansas for his home, but 
over repeated conversations Kansas acquires an 
increasingly complex meaning within their opera. 

Time 1 : Informational view of Kansas 

Students decide that the new kid, Charlie, who 
will be trying to get into a special school (like their 
own), should come from "Kansas," where they have 
opera pen pals. 

Time 2: Kansas as signaling "outsider" 

Writing the dialogue for the scene in which Charlie 
first appears, students build in all kinds of jokes about 
Kansas, such as the taunt: " We can kids from Kansas." 

Time 3: "Home" 

As work on the libretto continues, the conversation 
in class comes around to the parallels between Charlie's 
Kansas and the Kansas of Dorothy in The Wizard ofOz. 
Students return a number of times to discuss how both 
children have been carried away from a familiar life in 
Kansas to a place where they are strangers and face 
dangers. In Charlie's case, it is the danger of not passing 
the test to get into the gifted and talented program. 


Time 3: Kansas Vs Oz 

Much further on in the development of the opera, 
students are writing the lyrics to a song in which the kids 
from New Jersey at last welcome Charlie into their club. 
As they work on the lines to this song, they continue to 
think about what Kansas stands for in his life and in their 
opera. This section of the song is about what he will be 
able to do now that he is a member. (JB is the teacher, S 
stands for the several different students in the discussion.) 

S: And now you can play baseball, even though 
you're not in Kansas. 

S: You are in Emerald City 

S: Yeah, like Dorothy in OZ. 

JB: So what might Charlie find if he were in the 
Emerald City? 

S: The scarecrow got a brain, the Tin Man got a heart. 

JB: We can be pretty sneaky here. We still have the 
name of the town to choose. I think calling it 
Emerald City would be hitting them over the head. 

S: Jewel City 

S: Green City 

S: Club City 

S: No, we want to get them to think Kansas — green 
city, emerald, lessons. (6) 

Time 4: Lost Kansas 

After much discussion, students decide they want to 
end their opera with Charlie failing the test, but staying 
on in the community. The other students who once 
teased him mercilessly suddenly understand what it is to 
be an outsider. They also understand their community as 
exclusive. The students have been working on the reprise 
of a song from earlier in the opera. In a previous discus- 
sion, they had planned that Charlie would join the other 
kids in making fun of his old home. But at this moment 
the class develops a more nuanced meaning for Kansas as 
a place that Charlie (and they) have lost forever. 

JB: Sings the first verse of the lyrics as they occur 
earlier in the opera. 

S: Why not just keep the rest of the song? 

JB: We could. 

Ss: No, it's different now./ Uh-huh./ No. 

S: Things have happened. 

S: (suggesting a new version of a line) 
"You've found a place to replace Kansas." 

(Conversation about what Charlie is escaping). 

S: (emphatic) No, I don't think so. 

JB: Why not? 

S: Charlie wants to return to Kansas — like Dorothy. 

JB: Oh, so, they are consoling him? 
It won't be so bad here? 

S: He is not about to start saying bad things about 
his old home. 

JB:Works on re-ordering lines. 

Ss: Sing out different possibilities: 

S:Now you know what Kansas is. 

S:Now you know what Kansas really is 

S: Kansas will always be in your heart. [7] 

These instances suggest one of the reasons why 
students produce such strong work in the context of 
the opera and why opera learning might contribute 
to achievement in other tasks and domains. The 
company structure creates a setting in which students 
are expected to collaborate on matters of quality, and 
in which they learn to select the best from a wide field 
of possibilities. The sustained nature of the project 
means that these conversations need not be one-shot 
discussions of local matters. Since discussions recur 
over time, both questions of quality and of complex 
meanings, such as "Kansas" develop a long life. 

In their exit interviews, children as young as 
third grade, when asked to write reviews of a video 
performance of the comic opera "Gianni Schicchi," 
spontaneously interpreted the many messages that 
that a performance can convey. For example: 





The way {the greedy relatives) acted, they really 
expressed the characters they played. The scenes 
really fit their show. When all the relatives searched 
for the will, they tore the apartment to pieces, even 
the pillows. Feathers were flying everywhere. The 
way they moved, acted, and especially how they 
dressed. For example, the greedy fancy aunt, Zita, 
was dressed like she was so rich she only thought 
about money. And she acted like she was too good to 
even breathe the smoke from her cigarette (she had 
to have a long holder.) So get your tickets before they 
sell out. Remember, don't befooled by no other. Go 
to see the real Gianni Schicchi near you. [8] 

This data suggests that the work students do on their 
own operas can be applied more broadly. Students can 
extend their understanding of the many-layers of 
meaning and the many modalities for conveying it to the 
work of others. It is robust enough to transfer. A next step 
in the inquiry would be to ask whether their opera work 
has given students a broad understanding of how artistic 
communication works, or enhanced their ability to 
understand that many messages have multiple meanings 
[9]. Are opera students better non-literal readers? If so, 
the kind of qualitative inquiry outlined here will have 
helped us to uncover a productive partnership between 
arts education and a fundamental human capacity. 


Clearly we can demonstrate that arts education 
matters. We can show how, in the context of opera 
work, students collaborate often and effectively. But it 
is not enough to say "Opera work improves perfor- 
mance." We need to ask "What exactly is being 
learned?" Similarly, we need to ask why such effects 
occur. What is it about sustained and coherent collabo- 
ration that supports the development of a taste for 
more than convenient solutions or a capacity for 
understanding complex meanings. 

Such questions are significant, for their precision 
carries us from knowing that the arts matter in 
education to understanding why and how they matter. 


[ 1.] Parker, Francis W. (1894). Talks on Pedagogics. New York 
and Chicago: E. L. Kellogg & Co. 

[2.] Catterall, James S. (1998). Involvement in the Arts and 
Success in Secondary School. In Americans for the Arts 
Monographs, 1(9); Cossentino, J. and Shaffer, D. (1999). 
The math studio: Harnessing the power of the arts to 
teach across disciplines. In Journal of Aesthetic Education, 
33 (2), pp. 99-109; Heath, S.B., Soep, E., and Roach, A. 
(1998). Living the Arts through Language Learning: A 
Report on Community-Based Youth Organizations. In 
Americans for the Arts Monographs, 2 (7). 

[3.] Wolf, D. & Balick, D. (1994). Evaluation of Creating 
Original Opera Program. Harvard Graduate School of 
Education, 1994. 

[4.] Wolf, D. 8c Balick, D. (1994). Evaluation of Creating 
Original Opera Program. Harvard Graduate School of 
Education, 1994. 

[5.] Wolf, D. & Balick, D. (1994). Evaluation of Creating 
Original Opera Program. Harvard Graduate School of 
Education, 1994 

[6.] Wolf, D. 8c Balick, D. (1994). Evaluation of Creating 
Original Opera Program. Harvard Graduate School of 
Education, 1994 

[7.] Wolf, D. 8c Balick, D. (1997). Evaluation of Creating 
Original Opera Program: Phase II. Harvard Graduate 
School of Education 

[8.] Wolf, D. 8c Balick, D. ( 1994). Evaluation of Creating 
Original Opera Program. Harvard Graduate School of 
Education, 1994 

[9.] Goodman, N. (1983). Languages of Art. Indianapolis: 


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